Sequel to “The Bat: Origins” and “Justice League United: Apokolips”. Now in his third year of crime fighting, Batman finds himself with new allies, new equipment and new enemies. First, the Dark Knight will rise. However, what goes up must invariably come down… I recommend all to read the previous volumes first before jumping into this. Enjoy!!!!!

I own nothing.

Okay, so, here is volume two of the Bat. The first part will chronicle the final case of Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson as Batman and Robin, leading into Dick’s appearance in my Teen Titans fic, Titans Together VOL 1: Checkmate , followed by some other parts which I won’t reveal yet.

 

Bruce sat in the batcave. It had been a year and a half since the incident with Darkseid and the Justice League, just over three years since he had taken Dick on as his partner. To say their partnership was rocky would be an understatement; the 19 year old was prone to arrogance and impatience, neither being qualities Bruce could deal with very well.

He keyed a few commands into the computer. He was doing research. Commissioner Gordon had called Batman and Robin to GCPD two days ago to speak about a collection of killings recently. Each of the victims had been apparently unrelated, and found horrifically mutilated. Robin had suggested it was the Joker’s handy work, but Bruce couldn’t help but question that.

Granted, Joker had been in hiding for about a year, and, based on how he first appeared after the accident that had left him ‘the Clown Prince of Crime,’ as the papers had called him, something big would be coming from him. However, Bruce had spent the last two days looking at the reports from Joker’s previous arrests when he had been Jack Napier. Needless to say, there was one case he hadn’t needed to bother looking at. The one he knew best. His parents’ murder.

Bruce rubbed his eyes. He’d been awake since before Gordon had contacted him and Dick, and had been refusing Alfred’s constant heckling for him to get some sleep. He’d do that when he was sure it wasn’t the Joker.

He looked at the clock. It was 11PM. He pressed a few commands, bringing up the next file. The killings Joker had enacted during his escape from Arkham. He’d murdered twenty-seven people that night, but none of them were mutilated, at least, not to the extent this killer had been doing so.

As he flicked to the next page, alarms began blaring. A half second later, words flashed up on the display.

‘System Compromised. Hack Detected.’

“Computer, lockdown system.” Bruce said “Authorisation, Batman. Pass code, Thomas.”

“Authorisation not recognised.” The computer replied “Access denied.”

“Under whose authority?” Bruce asked, beginning to type.

“Authorisation, Oracle.” The computer said “Access to computer systems denied until remote uplink terminates.”

“Damn.” Bruce said, standing up and picking up his cowl from it’s position on the terminal, putting it on, pressing a control on his gauntlet “Activate secondary computer systems and isolate them to the Batmobile. Authorisation, Batman. Pass code, Martha.”

“Secondary systems engaged and isolated.” Came a second computer voice, this one in the ear piece in his cowl “Good evening, Mr. Wayne.”

“Trace the hacker.” Bruce said “Then get all information on any users with sufficient computer skills using the screen name Oracle.”

Bruce got into the Batmobile, beginning to engage the pre-start systems. As he did, he flipped the switch for communications, contacting Dick, who was out on patrol.

“Robin, someone’s hacked the batcave.” He said “Don’t go back there until I report in.”

“Need back up?” Dick asked “It’s a quiet night.”

“No, this hack could be a diversion.” Bruce said, looking at the display in front of him “I’ve traced the hack. It was bounced through a dozen different relays, but the source looks to be somewhere in the Gotham University halls of residence. I’ll check in soon.”

Bruce didn’t bother waiting for Dick’s response, instead cutting the line and hitting the cave door controls, firing up the afterburner and accelerating rapidly out of the cave.

As he sped out of the cave exit, an image came up on his display, of a green, animated female face, a large brain visible on top of the head.

“Batman, please believe me, I don’t mean you any harm.” Came a synthesised female voice “I just had to see your investigation notes on the killings so I could inform the police of anything they might’ve missed. You’re not exactly known for sharing.”

“Get off this channel!” Bruce responded in the usual, gravelly tone he affected whilst in the costume “How did you hack the batcomputer?!”

“It helps when you’ve had physical access.” Came the reply “I’m sending you some co-ordinates. Meet me there.”

Bruce looked at the display. The co-ordinates were in Park Row, the Monarch Theatre. Bruce spun the batmobile around, before firing the booster again, beginning to speed towards the theatre.

Bruce walked into the theatre. It had closed down years ago. Shortly after his parents’ murder outside it. He knew which room in the building this ‘Oracle’ would want to meet in, if they’d been in the cave like they claimed. The last one he’d been in.

He walked into the main room, pressing a control on his gauntlet, engaging a passive sonar scan, the readout being displayed on the gauntlet. Two people in the room, him and a woman, athletic build, five foot ten approximately, hiding up on the balcony.

“Might as well come out.” He said, showing his gauntlet “I scanned the room. You’re in row H, hiding behind seats 34 and 35.”

“So you’re as good as my dad says.” Came a familiar voice, before Barbara Gordon stood up from her position “Hello, Batman. Or do you prefer Bruce?”

“You tell me.” Bruce replied, raising his grapple gun and firing it to just above Barbara, quickly accelerating to a position just in front of her, putting the grapple back in his belt before pressing a control on it, his cowl loosening before her put his hands to it, removing it “How long have you known?”

“Since I stayed at the manor as Dick’s tutor.” She replied “He kept trying to keep me away from the study, so I figured there had to be something worth seeing in there. Didn’t take a genius with an eidetic memory to notice every book on the shelf except Moby Dick was covered in dust.”

“Still doesn’t explain how you hacked the computer.” Bruce said, folding his arms “Lowjacking wouldn’t work, and you would’ve been detected on an unauthorised signal.”

“I used an authorised carrier.” Barbara said “Alfred liaises with me for hacking expertise.”

“Alfred knows about this?” Bruce said, cocking an eyebrow “When were you two planning to tell me this?”

“The tenth of never.” She said, smirking “I want to help you, Bruce. Train me, let me be your partner, like Dick.”

Bruce turned around, running his hands through his hair. He was stuck between a rock and a hard place. She knew too much for him to let her just walk away, but she was the Comissioner’s daughter, Jim’s daughter. He’d known her since she was a kid, could he really let her put herself on the line.

Finally, he turned back to her.

“Here’s the deal.” He said “I’ll give you a series of tests. The same tests my mentor gave me when he trained me. First, you’ll have to give me everything you’ve got. Then, you’ll have to give me more.”

“And then I can come out with you two?” She asked, raising an eyebrow.

“No. Then I’ll think about-” Bruce began, stopping as he heard a sound, putting the cowl back on, saying to her in a hushed tone “Someone else is here. Get down and stay down until I tell you.”

Barbara complied as Bruce pressed the control to trigger the sonar again. He’d been wrong. There wasn’t another person there. There were multiple people. He pressed a control to get a readout.

‘System compromised. Anti-Tracking shields disabled.’

Bruce grimaced. Whoever it was had shown up, they were there for him. They’d piggybacked his communication with Barbara and used the signal as a way in to the Batmobile, disabling it’s Anti-Tracking shields. He pressed a control on his belt, the eyes of his cowl lighting up as a display of the sonar came up on a HUD.

Six guards, all armed with submachine guns. They looked to be lightly armoured; they had a rich benefactor, but not one who cared particularly for their wellbeing. He tried to consider who might want him dead, and found himself considering a list too long to even consider, without including the ones who wanted Bruce Wayne as well as Batman dead.

“Boss said he wants the bat.” Bruce heard one of the men say “He never specified dead or alive.”

Bruce pressed the control again, switching the HUD to thermal imaging. He reached into his belt, pulling a small silver ball and tossing it into the centre of the room, watching as the lower area quickly filled with smoke, hearing the men choking.

He leapt off of the balcony, landing on one of the goons and punching him, knocking the man out. He spun, punching another goon in the face, before receiving a hit to the face back, the HUD flickering and cutting out. He was fighting blind.

Bruce hit the deck as he heard guns begin to fire, sweeping a leg under a thug before hitting him with his own gun. As he did, he flinched, feeling several bullets impacting the armoured parts of his suit. He watched as the smoke cleared, noting the three remaining men stood over him.

“Nothing personal, bats.” One of the men said, aiming at him “Just business.”

As the man went to pull the trigger, the skylight shattered, Dick descending into the room, flipping off of the railing he landed on, bouncing off of the edge of the balcony and kicking the man who had aimed at Bruce in the face, dazing the man as he hit the floor.

“This a private party or can anyone join in?” Dick said, pulling his Escrima Sticks and throwing them both at the two remaining men, knocking them out “Guess I crashed this party.”

“You were reckless.” Bruce said, standing, observing the heavily damaged armour he was wearing “You could’ve got yourself killed with those tricks on the way down!”

“‘Thanks for saving my ass again, Robin.’ Oh, no problem, Batman.” Dick said to himself “Seriously, it’s fine, I didn’t get myself killed and saved you in the process!”

“Are you two always this bad?” Barbara said, rising from where she was hidden “You’re like a pair of children!”

“Are not!” Bruce and Dick said in unison.

“Point proven…” Barbara said, rolling her eyes “Who sent those guys?”

“I don’t know.” Bruce said, turning to Dick “Alert Commissioner Gordon, tell him to come down and collect these men.”

“How many are here this time?” Dick asked.

“Five.” Bruce said, picking up the leader “Their leader got away.”

Bruce didn’t say another word as he fired a grapple line up. He could deal with Barbara shortly, first, he needed information. When they were on the roof, he pulled a small container of smelling salts from his belt, using them to bring the man around before grabbing him by the throat and hanging him over the edge.

“Who sent you!” Bruce yelled at the man.

“I’m not telling you that.” The man said “He’d kill me!”

“Wrong answer.” Bruce said, tossing the man down, firing a grapple line down and through the man’s ankle, pulling him back up “Who sent you! Give me a name!”

“I don’t have one!” The man said “We only spoke on the phone, he just said he wanted you brought to him.”

“I don’t believe that.” Bruce said, hitting the man in the groin “Give. Me. A. Name.”

“Okay, okay.” The man said “He sticks to the shadows, tall guy, wears a trench coat, works with a guy called Pyg. That’s all I know, I swear!”

“Thanks.” Bruce said, before knocking the man out, lowering both himself and the man back into the main theatre “I found the leader. Robin, wait here. Barbara, with me.”

Bruce walked away, Barbara running down to catch Bruce up as Dick watched on, confused. As Bruce and Barbara got outside, Bruce pressed a control on his belt, unlocking the Batmobile and opening the canopy, Bruce getting into the driver’s seat and gesturing for Barbara to get in the passenger seat.

Once Barbara was inside, Bruce fired the afterburner, the car speeding off into the night. He didn’t even look away from the road as he flipped a switch, opening a glove compartment with a candy bar inside.

“You’re stressed. Eat that. The sugar will help.” He said simply “Trust me, I know. It’s the same advice your father gave me when…”

He trailed off, not bothering to finish the sentence. They both knew where it was going. Barbara pulled out the candy bar, unwrapping it and wolfing it down quickly. Bruce pressed another control, an image of Alfred appearing on the windshield in front of Barbara.

“Alfred, get me everything in the database on someone who calls themselves ‘Pyg.’ He, or someone he works with, sent a group of mercs after me tonight.” Bruce said, before adding “We can discuss your recent behind the scenes partner when she and I get back to the cave.”

Bruce cut the channel, grimacing. He was about to get the same argument from two sides.

He should’ve let Robin handle it.

Bruce pulled the car into the cave, he and Barbara getting out as the turntable the car rested on began rotating, pointing the car back towards the exit before the platform it was on in the centre lowered into the floor, a pair of metal plates moving into position over the large rectangular hole left in its place.

Bruce pulled off his cowl, pressing a control on the inside of his gauntlet, causing the cape to retract into the back plate of his suit, as the blades on his gauntlets folded back into the tops of the units. He set the cowl down, grabbing a soder cola from a drinks fridge beside a work table near the Batmobile area of the cave, setting his cowl down on top of it and opening the drink, taking a swig. He paused for a second, before bending down, grabbing another, and tossing it to Barbara.

“Alfred, where are you?” Bruce yelled, Alfred emerging from his position in the armoury “There you are. We need to talk.”

“I’m sorry, sir, I was just polishing your spare suits.” Alfred replied, pausing before saying “I am sorry for not telling you about Miss. Gordon, sir, but you were so pre-occupied with your work, I didn’t wish to disrupt you.”

“It’s funny.” Bruce said, his expression cold “I would’ve expected this from Dick, but not from you, Alfred.”

“It’s not his fault, Bruce, I made him promise not to tell you.” Barbara said, pausing before adding “I didn’t want you put in an awkward position with my father…”

“But that’s fine now?” Bruce asked, cocking an eyebrow “Why?”

“Because he trusts you now. He trusts Batman now.” Barbara said “Look, if you want me to go, if you want me not to have anything else to do with this, fine. Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.”

“It’s not that simple. Those men that were working for this ‘Pyg’ might’ve seen you tonight.” Bruce said “So now I don’t have a choice. I have to train you, for your own protection.”

Bruce was lying. He knew they hadn’t seen her, but he had to save face. Otherwise, there could be more of these kids running about the cave. God help him if he ever had his own kid, they’d probably want to steal Dick’s spot as Robin or something along those lines. There’d already been one panic of that when he’d been involved with Talia.

“Thank you!” Barbara said, running up to him and hugging him, pausing before saying “You’re not going to refuse to train me because I hugged you, are you?”

“So long as you promise never to do it again, we can forget it.” Bruce said, a small smirk forming on his face, before his expression snapped back to neutral as he turned to Alfred “Alfred, take Barbara home. We’ll start tomorrow. I have work to do.”

“Of course, sir.” Alfred said, gesturing to the elevator out of the cave “This way, Miss. Gordon.”

“Good night.” Barbara said to Bruce, getting a grunt in response as she was led out of the cave.

Bruce sat at the computer, beginning to go over the files. The one thing he would say; Alfred had got together all the files mentioning a ‘Pyg’ on the computer, so Bruce could sift through those easily. He took another sip of his drink before running his other hand through his hair, straightening it with his fingers slightly.

As he did so, Dick came speeding back in on his motorcycle, the bike being given the same treatment the batmobile had before being picked up by a mechanical arm and stored on large metal platform above and to the left of the turntable as soon as he was off of the vehicle. He walked over to Bruce, removing his mask as he did.

“When were you going to tell me Barbara knew?!” He said, his tone aggressive “Actually, scratch that, I already know, the tenth of never, because that’s what you do, Bruce, keep secrets from everyone. For god’s sake, I’m supposed to be your partner!”

“I only found out this evening.” Bruce said coolly as Dick pressed a control on the inside of his own gauntlet, causing his cape to go through the same process Bruce’s had “I was going to tell you later on. When I told you that I’m going to be training her.”

“What?” Dick asked indignantly “Bruce, you barely train me!”

“I don’t agree with that.” Bruce said, finishing his drink and standing up, walking past Dick towards a waste disposal unit, slapping Dick on the shoulder as he walked past, commenting “Besides, if she’s going to be around, you may finally have a shot. You can thank me later.”

Dick stood there, indignant as Bruce tossed his empty can into the unit. As Bruce walked back over, an alarm began blaring. Dick walked over to the computer, bringing up a map of the city on the large monitor, the Hospital highlighted by a flashing red dot.

“Elliot Memorial Hospital.” Dick said, picking up his mask and putting it on as Bruce pressed the control on his gauntlet, releasing his cape and the blades on the gauntlets “I’ll take my bike.”

“Why?” Bruce asked, putting on the cowl “We’ll take the car.”

Dick shook his head as he walked over to the turntable where the Batmobile had risen from the floor, the canopy opening before Dick jumped into the passenger seat, followed quickly by Bruce. It was going to be a long night.

Lazlo Valentin grabbed at bottles in the cabinet at the hospital, tossing them all in bags. His tall, large build was hidden by a surgical gown, spattered with blood, a pig mask over his face, his greying brown hair visible at the back of his head. There were knives and meat cleavers hanging on his belt.

As he grabbed more bottles, a group of people entered, all of them wearing full black motorcycle leathers, bandages wrapped around their heads, the eye holes totally black, specs of blood dotted over the bandages. The people began taking the bags and exiting as Valentin grabbed more meds and more people entered taking them.

They hadn’t been people when he’d found them, not to him anyway. Just… Dolls, dolls for him to mould to what he wanted from them. It had taken a lot of work, both physical and chemical, and there’d been failed projects, all of them left in the streets of Gotham. Of course, his benefactor who’d been helping him had wanted to take them himself for some reason, but he’d never interfered with Valentin’s work. It was a perfect business arrangement.

Valentin continued to work, as his dolls continued their own work. He knew from his benefactor that he had only a few minutes before the Batman and his little bird showed up. They’d be long gone when he did.

Bruce pulled up to the hospital. Police cars were spread around the building, a crime scene in the process of being erected. He and Dick got out of the Batmobile, the canopy closing before ablative armour came out from underneath, quickly assembling into a hard shell around the car, the sound of it electrifying being audible as they walked towards one of the lead cars, where Gordon was stood with an average height, slim man who looked to be around 30, wearing a beige trench coat and hat, his messy dark hair visible at the edges, a dark six o’clock shadow on his face.

“Jim.” Bruce said, nodding at Gordon as he shook his hand, before looking at the other man “Who’s this?”

“Batman. Detective Harvey Bullock. Detective Harvey Bullock, this is Batman.” Gordon said, Dick coughing as if clearing his throat “And this is Robin.”

“Good to meet’cha.” Bullock said, shaking Batman’s hand “I’ve seen your work. Can’t say I approve, but I like your methods.”

“Thank you, Detective.” Bruce said, unsure whether or not to genuinely thank Bullock before turning to Dick “Robin, I want you to head inside. Detective Bullock will show you to the crime scene.”

“What?!” Bullock said “I don’t take orders from no capes!”

“Detective, I have literally fought and defeated a god, I can catch the fastest man alive with one hand, and I caught most of the inmates in Arkham Asylum.” Bruce growled “I need to speak to the Commissioner.”

Bullock scowled at Bruce, before gesturing for Dick to follow him. Bruce had to suppress a smirk as he watched Dick and Bullock walking away, Dick turning back and mouthing some very course language Bruce’s way.

“What happened here?” Bruce asked, as he and Gordon walked through the crime scene outside.

“A man in a pig mask and surgical gear broke in.” Gordon replied “He and his goons, men and women in similar get ups with bandages wrapped round their heads, stole medical supplies.”

“Pig mask… Surgical supplies…” Bruce pondered for a moment “Do you have the CCTV?”

“Where do you think we got the intel?” Gordon asked “He was gone by the time we got here.”

“Send it to the usual cloud drive.” Bruce said “Get your men out of the crime scene, they’ll contaminate it. Robin and I will take it over.”

“I want to keep a couple in there.” Gordon said, his tone stern “At least Bullock.”

“You can stay.” Bruce relented “Bullock maintains a perimeter, keeps your guys out.”

“Fine.” Gordon said as he and Bruce entered the building, reaching the room Dick and Bullock were in a second later “Bullock, wait outside.”

“But Commish-” Bullock began.

“Now!” Bruce growled, Bullock glaring at him before skulking out “What have we got, Robin?”

Dick walked over to the cabinet, pulling a spray from it and squirting a bloody stain with it, the blood beginning to glow violet in the light. He turned to Bruce with a grin.

“One of our guys was on a specific drug.” Dick said “I scanned with my mask’s scanner, picked up traces of something. Now, what glows violet under standard light when exposed to compound seven?”

“Chlorazine.” Bruce said, turning to Gordon “Jim, I need a list of everyone recorded to be trained in the use of Chlorazine.”

“The anaesthetic?” Gordon asked “Batman, that’s barely approved for use.”

“Good.” Bruce said “Have all shipments into the city diverted to the GCPD lock up.”

“Setting a trap?” Gordon asked, cocking an eyebrow.

“Yeah!” Dick butted in with a laugh “Then whack! Bang! Kapow! Night night piggy!”

“Indeed.” Bruce said, turning and beginning to walk out “Come on Robin.”

Bruce and Dick walked out of the room. Bruce wanted to look into something about this. He knew he’d heard of Chlorazine being used in something else before, but couldn’t think of what. He just had to figure it out. In the meantime, he had a breakfast appointment in six hours and needed to sleep before hand.

Bruce walked into the Gotham Plaza Hotel Restaraunt. He glanced around for a moment before clocking Harvey Dent sat at the corner table, along with a red haired man who had his back to the door. Harvey looked well considering the massive burns he had sustained during the incident at Arkham two years ago. The skin graft Doctor Thomas Elliot, a school friend of both Bruce and Harvey’s, had performed, along with the medication supplied after to prevent rejection as well as scarring, had worked wonders; if you didn’t know it, you wouldn’t think that the entire left hand side of Harvey’s face was a skin graft.

“There he is!” Harvey said, standing up as Bruce walked over, shaking Bruce by the hand as the red haired man stood up too “Look who stopped by for a visit.”

“Tommy?” Bruce asked, shocked to see Thomas Elliot stood there, a broad grin on his face, as it had always been “What are you doing in Gotham? Last I heard, you were working in Star City.”

“Decided to drop in, make some house calls. I actually spoke to Alfred this morning, told him I was planning to surprise you.” Elliot replied, shaking Bruce’s hand before the three men sat down “Besides, Bruce, I was hoping to see that Batman of yours in action.”

“I imagine you’d have a better chance of that at night.” Bruce laughed, slightly nervously “I’ve never seen him, if I’m honest.”

“I’m not surprised.” Elliot said, pausing just long enough to make Bruce wonder if he knew something before he added “Wayne Manor’s outside of the city as I recall?”

“Yes, it is.” Bruce said, smirking at Harvey “Of course, if you want to meet the Batman, maybe Mr. DA here is a good person to ask.”

“Won’t tell me a thing about the man.” Elliot said “Hell, it took me an hour to get out of him that the drug I use to treat my patients to avoid rejection of skin grafts was being re-routed to GCPD.”

“Which you weren’t supposed to mention.” Harvey sighed “Chlorazine is highly regulated as is, very few people know how to use it, which makes everyone who does a potential suspect.”

“In what?” Bruce asked, pausing for a moment “Harvey, wasn’t Chlorazine what-”

“What I put him on after his surgery, yes.” Elliot said, grinning “It may require regular doses, but, so long as they’re maintained, the instances of rejection and scarring from skin grafts and organ transplants are less than one percent. Hell, I’m surprised your guys didn’t come up with it, Bruce.”

“We try to find things that don’t need regular doses years after treatment.” Bruce quipped, standing up “Excuse me for a moment, I just remembered some business I need to take care of. Give me five minutes.”

He quickly moved away from the table, waiting until he was outside before pulling out his phone, dialling in the number for Wayne Manor.

“Yes, sir?” Alfred’s voice came through the phone “What can I do for you?”

“I need you to look into the side effects of coming off of Chlorazine.” Bruce said, pausing “Harvey might be having a hard come down soon…”

“Oh my…” Alfred replied, pausing for a moment before adding “I will look into it immediately, master Bruce.”

“Good, thank you, Alfred.” Bruce said “Anyway, I should get inside. Harvey and Tommy will start getting suspicious.”

“Tommy?” Alfred said “Doctor Elliot’s in town?”

“Don’t play dumb Alfred.” Bruce said, almost laughing “Tommy told me he’d spoke to you this morning.”

“This is the first I’ve heard of it sir.” Alfred replied “I promise you that much.”

“Why would Tommy lie about that?” Bruce wondered “I’ll talk to you later, Alfred. Tell Dick I’ll be sending him an address to investigate shortly. He should take Barbara, let her get a feel for things.”

“Of course, sir.” Alfred said “Good luck, master Bruce.”

“Thank you, Alfred. I’ll see you later.” Bruce said, before hanging up and turning to walk back into the building.

As he entered, he bumped into a man. It took him a moment to stop himself from falling, before noticing it was Elliot he’d bumped into. Elliot smiled and laughed, accepting the hand Bruce offered to help him up.

“Thanks, Bruce. I was just coming to get you.” Elliot said, dusting himself down “What was taking so long?”

“Just having Alfred take care of a couple of things.” Bruce said, chuckling falsely as he added “Cancelling a few appointments.”

“Of course.” Elliot said as they began to walk inside “So, I hear you’ve got a roommate? An 18 year old boy? Something you want to tell me?”

“No.” Bruce replied simply, before adding “Dick was orphaned at a circus I was visiting after his parents were gunned down. He had no family, and I had a lot of spare rooms, so I offered to help out.”

“Bruce Wayne; billionaire playboy philanthropist.” Elliot quipped “Shame there’s no genius in there.”

“I have my moments.” Bruce commented as they reached the table, both men sitting down across from Harvey “So, Tommy, how long did you say you were in town?”

“A couple of weeks, at least.” Elliot said, cocking an eyebrow “Why do you ask, Bruce?”

“No real reason.” Bruce said, pulling out a pen and handing it to Elliot “Mind writing down the address you’re staying at? I might try and pop by.”

“Sure thing.” Elliot said, taking the pen and writing an address on a piece of paper “Mind calling first, though? I’d hate to have to turn you away due to work.”

“Of course.” Bruce said, noting the address as he pulled out his phone, quickly texting it to the cave “Sorry, just had to email it to myself. Just in case I forgot where I need to go…”

Dick and Barbara landed on the roof of Elliot’s house. Bruce had had a suit delivered for Barbara that morning, apparently produced overnight. It was, on a basic design level, similar to Bruce and Dick’s own costumes. However, it was primarily black, with dull yellow boots that ended at bat shaped knee guards, the two blades on the wrists in the same colour, and a bat emblem, thinner and slightly more stylised than the one on Bruce’s Batman suit, on the chest in the same yellow. On the back, was a scalloped black cape that ended just below her knees, a purple lining visible on the cape. Finally, she wore a cowl similar to Bruce’s, only with a larger mouth hole and larger lenses over the eyes, as well as shorter ears on top.

“Remember, this is a quiet one.” Dick said as he opened the skylight and jumped down into the study below, Barbara following close behind “Let’s not disturb things too much.”

You’re talking to me about not disturbing?” Barbara said, a smirk on her face “I seem to recall someone walking in on me in the shower when I was tutoring him last year!”

“And I don’t seem to recall you objecting to that.” Dick retorted “Or had you forgotten that, and the next part?”

“I thought we agreed not to discuss that?” Barbara hissed “It was a onetime thing and a mistake and-”

“You’re trying too hard to put a negative spin on it. You’re lying.” Dick said simply as he picked up a file on the desk “Well, look what we have here.”

He handed the file to Barbara. It was marked ‘Dent’. Barbara began flipping through. There were numerous pictures of Dent, before his accident, after it, and then before and after the skin grafts. As she flipped through the file, Dick engaged the scanner mode on his mask, looking around the room, focusing on book shelves.

“What do we have here?” He said as he walked over to one of the book shelves in the corner “Babs, take a look at this.”

“It’s Barbara, not Babs.” Barbara said, moving over to him and engaging the scanner in her cowl “There’s a separation between the bookshelf and the wall. So what? They aren’t all built into the walls, you know.”

“Trust me, I’ve seen this kind of separation before.” Dick said, moving over to the picture frames on the wall beside it “Funny how this photograph of Bruce and Elliot shows signs of being moved.”

Dick nudged the picture slightly, causing it to rotate. As he did, there was a low, metallic clunk from inside the wall, before the bookshelf swung open, revealing a room behind it.

The pair walked into the room, looking around. It was metal lined and smelt of medical grade cleaner. There was a table and a number of tools dotted around the room. At the edge, was a picture of Bruce, lines drawn over the face, some areas blacked out.

“Well, that’s not creepy at all.” Dick said sarcastically, pressing two fingers to his ear, engaging the in-ear microphone – receiver combination unit “Alfred, record everything coming from my visual feed since we got into the building, until we leave.”

Of course, sir.” Alfred’s voice came through “Shall I record Miss Gordon’s feed as well?”

“Yes, thank you Alfred.” Barbara said before Dick could reply “Helps to have multiple sources, don’t you think, Dick? After all, we can’t all have eidetic memories.”

“I don’t.” Dick said, pausing as he caught her meaning “Wait, you do?!”

“Yeah.” Barbara said, moving over to a computer in the corner, beginning to press keys as she reached into her belt, removing a USB drive from it and plugging it into the computer “I’m downloading the hard drive. We can go through it later.”

Before Dick could say anything, a sound came from inside the study. He hit a control by the door, closing it, before grabbing Barbara and pulling her into a storage cupboard in the corner. She went to say something, being interrupted by him putting his hand over her mouth.

“Be quiet.” He whispered barely loud enough for her to hear, pausing in horror before saying “Did you get the drive?”

“It’s still downloading.” She whispered as he uncovered her mouth, looking out of the narrow gaps in the door “It’s at 76%.”

“Great.” Dick said, looking through the gap and observing the room “We need a way out of here.”

Barbara looked around the room, quickly taking it in. She paused, going over the image of it in her head. Finally, she spoke.

“There’s an air vent in the ceiling.” She said to him “It’s small, but I could probably fit in there.”

“Go for it.” Dick said as they opened the door, Dick moving to a position just beside the book case entrance, pulling a small circular device from his belt and placing it on the door “I’m going to see what I can get in here.”

Barbara didn’t say anything, just nodding as she fired her grapple at the vent, pulling it open before firing the line again and rappelling up into the vent, closing it behind her. Dick pressed two fingers to his ears, listening to what was being said.

Our friend has asked us to leave the information here.” Came one voice, a high, almost song like male voice “Don’t leave a mess!”

I’m a hitman, not a butler.” Came another male voice, this one gruff, with a Texan edge to it “Why does this guy want this anyway?”

I don’t ask, my friend.” The first voice said “Come. I have more targets for you. Remember, you’re not to miss, but you’re not to kill them either!”

I never miss.” Said the second voice, the sounds of footsteps being audible before they stopped “Wait. Something’s not right here.”

What is it?” The first voice said.

I can hear something. Above us.” The second voice said, before the sound of a gun cocking could be heard “Let’s see what it is…”

Dick was ready to hit the button and tackle whoever was on the other side, but was stopped by what he heard next.

Never mind. I can see it, just a rat.” The second man said “I hate rats.”

Dick waited until he heard the door close before grabbing the USB drive, shutting down the computer and hitting the control by the door, opening it once more. He stepped outside, straightening the picture to close the door and quickly picking up the note that had been left, which had an address down in the docks on it, as Barbara dropped down behind him.

“I thought he’d spotted me.” She said, breathing hard as she grabbed him and hugged him “Dick… I was scared.”

Dick didn’t say a word. He wanted to come out with some quip, some comment about how he’d never been scared while doing any of it. He couldn’t. He knew he’d be lying, and he knew it wouldn’t do her any good. So he stood there for a moment, holding her, before she pulled away, straightening up.

“So, what now?” She said “What’s next?”

“We’ve got copies of everything here that looks noteworthy.” Dick said “We’ll head back to the cave.”

“Then what?” She asked “What if he hasn’t done anything?”

“Then we’ve broken into an innocent man’s home and never speak of it again.” Dick said “It’s if he is involved that things become interesting.”

“Why?” She asked “What happens then?”

“It’s simple.” Dick responded, smirking “Thomas Elliot has a meeting with the Batman.”

Barbara sat in the cave, going over the data from the hard drive. Bruce and Dick were both out on patrol, but she had Alfred for company. Well, not so much company as someone who would occasionally call out from wherever he was cleaning to ask if she needed anything.

So far, not a lot of suspect information had come up. There were select surgical records, including one that belonged to one of the victims, but it was from two years before the victim had been killed. If that were to be called evidence, it would be circumstantial, at best.

Near as she could tell, they’d broken into an innocent Doctor’s panic room. The files on Dent hadn’t been hugely enlightening, although they suggested the skin graft he’d received came from multiple sources, based on the lines drawn on the image, which was odd. Normally, a graft would be taken from a single source to avoid rejection and to avoid scarring. Even with Chlorazine, it was still not advised to use multiple sources. So why would Elliot have done that?

Anything to report?” Came Bruce’s voice through the speakers as the image of him in the batsuit, driving the car, came up on the monitor, making her jump “Sorry to startle you.”

“It’s fine.” She lied as she composed herself “There’s records of Elliot having treated one of the victims, an Adam Ward, but that was two years ago. Any evidence is circumstantial at best.”

I don’t believe in circumstantial evidence.” Bruce said quietly “Keep looking. I’m following up a possible lead on the men in there. We at least know one of them was a hit man.”

“On it.” Barbara said as the screen went dark, sighing to herself as she went back to work “Guess I asked for this…”

Bruce pulled the Batmobile up outside an old warehouse he’d been pointed to by a known associate of Pyg’s. He’d told Dick to meet him there soon. He jumped out of the car, engaging the security countermeasures before grappling up to the roof. He slowly moved over to the skylight that looked down into it.

There was what appeared to be a crude, bloody surgical lab inside. On the table in the centre was a figure that looked to be female, bandages wrapped around her face, bloody patches visible on the bandages, a surgical gown on her. There were several other figures, both male and female of varying body types, on the tables lining the edge of the room.

Bruce looked around the skylight, before finding a slightly open portion. He got his fingers in the gap, pulling it hard to open it before dropping down. The smell in the lab was disgusting, a stench of rotting flesh filling it. He moved to the body in the centre, putting two fingers to her neck. Slow, steady pulse. He began checking each of the bodies around the room in turn, finding the same result.

Before he could begin searching the room, he heard footsteps outside. He quickly fired a grapple line up, retreating into the rafters as the doors opened. Two men walked in. One was tall with a large build, wearing surgical gear and a pig mask, brown hair sticking out of the back, presumably Pyg, whilst the other man was of a similar height and build to Bruce, wearing a skin tight black bodysuit with red piping, a silver device on each wrist with two gun barrels protruding from each device, along with a red full face mask, his left eye covered with a lens like the ones on Bruce’s cowl whilst he wore what looked like a black metal eye patch over his right eye, a glowing red lens making up the majority of the patch. The body of another woman was slung over the man in the pig mask’s shoulder.

“I’ll begin work on this one.” Pyg said, handing a slip of paper to the man in black “Here is your next target. Once you have him, take him immediately to our friend.”

“You got it.” The other man said, looking at the slip of paper “My usual fee applies.”

“Of course, my friend.” Pyg said “It will be attended to this evening.”

“Good.” The other man said, beginning to walk out as he tossed back “You know what happened to the last guy to rip me off.”

“Robin,” Bruce said quietly, putting two fingers to his ear “there’s an assassin just left my location. He’ll be leaving through the front entrance of the building. Pursue and apprehend.”

On it.” Dick’s voice came through “What are you doing?”

“Retreaving a hostage.” Bruce said simply before descending from the rafters, landing on Pyg and taking him to the floor, before picking the man up again by the throat as Bruce growled “Who are you working for?!”

“No one.” Pyg choked out “I… Have a business arrangement.”

“With who?!” Bruce said, tightening his grip, causing Pyg to choke something out “I can’t hear you!”

“I said,” Pyg began “his name is-”

Before Pyg could finish speaking, his head snapped back with the impact of a gunshot. Bruce spun around, seeing a figure on the roof in a long, black coat, a black bodysuit underneath, with bandages wrapped around his head, a smoking high calibre pistol in his hand. The figure began to retreat as Bruce fired a line up to the roof.

As he reached the top, he heard a beeping sound, it’s speed increasing. He dived back down into the lab, shielding the hostage with his body as an explosion rocked the building, bringing a section of the roof down on the centre of the lab, crushing the bandaged woman in the centre and impacting Bruce, causing him to black out.

Dick ran along the rooftops, having picked up the hit man Bruce had mentioned. The man was in a van on the streets below, and had so far not made Dick. As Dick watched the van turn a corner to the left, his earpiece beeped.

“Not now, Babs.” He said as he kept running, firing a grapple line at the building ahead across from him, swinging across “I’m pursuing an assassin. I think it’s the guy from the house yesterday.”

Dick, you need to fall back to Bruce’s location.” Came Barbara’s voice “There was an explosion, and now I can’t reach Bruce. GCPD and the Fire Department are both on their way, and I’m heading there too, but we need to find him.”

“Damn it.” Dick said, stopping at his position at the top of the building he’d grappled to, watching as the van turned another corner before firing a grapple line back to where he’d grappled from “I’m on my way.”

Barbara pulled up outside the warehouse on her motorcycle. She grappled up to the roof, engaging the scanner mode on her cowl to detect the weakened areas of the structure. She trod carefully, before reaching the large hole, observing the lab below.

There were only two heartbeats, both weak and under a massive pile of rubble.

She jumped down, using her cape to slow her descent, running over to the rubble and beginning to pick it up, struggling with the larger pieces.

After about two minutes of moving rubble, she reached what she was looking for; she could see a small part of the black cape of Bruce’s suit. As she continued, more and more of it became visible. However, she couldn’t move all of the rubble; it was too heavy.

She kept trying, until Dick descended from the roof. He tried moving the larger piece as well, to no avail. Finally, he reached to the back of his belt, grabbing his escrima sticks and connecting them into a staff configuration, managing to jam it under the rubble.

“Grab hold of that and push as hard as you can.” Dick said, Barbara grabbing onto the staff as Dick crouched, getting his hands under the debris “On three. One… Two… Three!”

Barbara pushed down on the staff as Dick lifted, the two of them just about managing to get the debris off and move it aside. Once the debris was off, Dick grabbed Bruce, picking up his body with some difficulty, as Barbara checked the hostage that Bruce had been protecting.

“She’s got a few breaks, some cuts and bruises, but she’ll be okay.” Barbara said, as the doors to the lab opened, Commissioner Gordon, Bullock and a number of GCPD officers entering, guns drawn, as it did “Not now…”

“GCPD, freeze!” Gordon yelled, before observing the condition of the room “My god… Is he-”

“He’ll be fine, Commissioner.” Dick said, gesturing to Barbara “Detective Bullock, if you could take the hostage from Batgirl, we can take Batman for treatment.”

“Batgirl?” Bullock asked as he took the hostage “Geeze, you capes are just crawling out of the woodwork, aren’t you?”

“We’d appreciate any information you can gather from the scene.” Barbara said to her father “There’s a dropbox you usually send it to. Just keep it up. I’ll go over the information later.”

“Understood.” Gordon said, pausing “Have we met before?”

“I’m sure I’d remember, sir.” Barbara said before grappling up to the roof with Dick, waiting until they were at the Batmobile before saying “That was so weird.”

“You’re telling me.” Dick said, as he put Bruce in the passenger seat before climbing into the driver’s seat “But this is going to be fun.”

Harvey sat in his office, going over files for the case he was working. They’d managed to get information on Salvatore Maroni, so with any luck, they’d manage to take the mob boss down for quite a while. Of course, to do that, they had to make sure the case was air tight, hence he was reviewing every single file himself.

His watch beeped as he finished a file. He reached into his deck, withdrawing an injector. It contained the daily dosage of Chlorazine he had to take. Without it, he ran the risk of very painful rejection of the skin graft on the left side of his face. He’d seen some photos of what could happen in those cases, and not pretty was an understatement.

He rolled up his right sleeve, injecting the drug into his forearm. As he did, there was a knock at the door.

“You’ll have to come back in office hours.” Harvey called as he rolled the sleeve down, putting the injector in another drawer, the person at the door knocking again, causing Harvey to stand and go to the door “The DA office is closed! If you want to an appointment, my secretary will be sure to-”

As Harvey opened the door, a black gloved fist hit him in the face. Harvey looked up, facing a tall, muscular built man in a black suit with red piping and a mechanical eye patch over his right eye, some kind of weapon mounted on each wrist.

“I’m not here for an appointment, Mr. Dent.” The man said in a Texan accent, pointing one of the double barrelled weapons at Harvey “You can come quietly or I can shoot you. My employer didn’t ask for you alive.”

Dent said nothing as he stood, the man chuckling to himself slightly as he did.

“Good choice.” The man said, before firing a dart into Harvey’s neck, taking Harvey back to the floor, the world around him going dark as the man said “Don’t worry, it’s just a tranquiliser. Sweet dreams, Mr. Dent.”

Oswald Cobblepot sat at his table in the middle of the large, raised platform in the middle of his club, the Iceberg Lounge, observing the patrons. He could see several noteworthy figures, including a couple of GCPD Detectives, the Mayor with a twenty something year old model who was most definitely not his wife, and a secretary from the DA’s office, amongst other people, including Salvatore Maroni. Cobblepot’s competition.

It sickened Cobblepot to think that Maroni was in his club, on his turf, but he had to tolerate it. At least for the moment. He knew for a fact that the DA had some evidence against Maroni, and was planning to use it. Cobblepot hated Dent almost as much as he did Maroni, but for once, their interests aligned. Shame he’d got himself kidnapped the day before.

He reached over to his side, laying his black leather gloved fingers on the umbrella beside him. He could easily use the gun concealed in it to shoot down Maroni right there and then, but couldn’t guarantee the silence of those around him, and, simply put, didn’t have enough bullets in it.

It was a shame. He could use some target practice.

Dick crouched on the roof of the Iceberg Lounge, looking down on the scene below. There were two mob bosses in there, so he’d need to tread carefully. He and Bruce had dealt with Cobblepot a couple of times over the last three years, and Dick had an understanding with the Penguin, as he was nicknamed due to the black and white suit he always wore with a monacle. He’d avoid coming down on Penguin too hard, and in return, Penguin would give him any information he asked for.

Originally, Penguin hadn’t been too keen. However, as soon as Dick had pointed out that he was the nice half of the dynamic duo, whilst pinning Penguin to the ground with an escrima stick across his throat, Penguin had been hasty to agree. So long as he kept things out of Dick’s sights, he wouldn’t look too closely. The deal didn’t, however, apply to Bruce. And now Bruce was laying in the cave, having shards of metal support pulled from his body by a friend of his father’s called Leslie Thompkins, whilst on a life support machine. All bets were off.

You sure you want to do this?” Barbara’s voice came through the comm. line “I know you’re pissed, but-“

“Penguin always knows what’s going on. First an assassin gets sent out to abduct someone, then Bruce nearly gets killed in an explosion, and then we see Harvey Dent’s been abducted on the news. That’s too many things for him not to have some ideas.” Dick cut her off “I need you to hack the Iceberg Lounge, kill the power.”

Give me a second.” The reply came through “There’s a snag. He’s got walls upon walls of security.”

“Okay then, let’s try something else.” Dick said, pausing for a moment “Call GCPD. Tell them there are several known arms dealers currently in the Iceberg Lounge.”

Dick, you’re asking me to put my father in the line of fire.” Barbara said “I can’t do that.”

“But my brother can?!” Dick snapped “Fine, I’m going in without back up!”

He cut the comm. line, before jumping up, kicking down on the skylight, causing it to smash, landing on Penguin’s table. He grabbed Penguin by the throat whilst reaching into his belt, throwing one of his batarang variants, or ‘wing dings’ as he’d nicknamed them and throwing it at the good who pulled his gun, before pulling his grapple gun and firing it up, bringing Penguin up with him, hanging the boss over the broken skylight.

“Cobblepot, I need answers.” Dick half growled at Penguin “Who abducted Harvey Dent and who hired him?!”

“Lawton… Floyd Lawton. He’s a merc, one of the best I know!” Cobblepot couldn’t talk fast enough “He’s been hired by a freak who calls himself Pyg, and his partner. Don’t know his name, but people are calling him Hush, because anyone who sees him, ends up dead, with their faces butchered.”

“Faces…” Dick said, before grinning and slapping Penguin’s cheek “Thanks, Ozzy. You’ve been really enlightening.”

He tossed Cobblepot down, firing the grapple line through his ankle, causing Penguin to scream in pain as Dick dropped him again, causing him to hit the table with a thud before his goons began firing up through the skylight as Dick ran away from it.

“Babs, I need another favour.” He said as he turned his comms. back on “Go through those files, and through the victims, and find any matches for missing portions of their faces which match the coloured out areas of Bruce’s face in the picture. Then, put Harvey’s skin graft over it, and find someone who matches the final missing portions. He or she will be the final target.”

How do you know?” Barbara asked “How can you be sure?”

“The victims have been having their faces removed. I bet the portions removed will match the blacked out portions of the photo.” Dick said “Track Elliot down. I need to see him.”

No, you don’t.” Came a weak voice in the background, belonging to Bruce “I do.”

“Bruce, you’re awake?!” Dick asked “When did Doc Thompkins finish?”

An hour ago. I asked Barbara not to tell you.” Bruce said “Thought you could use some extra incentive.”

“You kept another secret.” Dick grimaced “What kind of partnership is that?”

The kind that works.” Came Bruce’s response “I’m gearing up. I’ll go to Elliot’s apartment, you try to trace the assassin, find Dent.”

“I will.” Dick said “Barbara, get me everything you can on a Floyd Lawton. Then, I could use your help.”

Floyd Lawton sat in the hotel room he’d hired for his trip to Gotham. He had a beer in one hand, and a copy of Playboy in the other. There was a knock on the door.

“Hold on.” Lawton said, hiding the two wrist worn guns that were sat on his bedside table from view “Who is it?”

“Room service.” Came a female voice “I’ve got your pizza.”

“About time. I’ve been waiting for nearly an hour.” Lawton said as he moved to the door “Thought this place was meant to be five star.”

As he reached the door, it was bashed through, knocking him to the floor, a heeled boot standing on his neck, as he looked up at a young woman in a bat themed costume, a young man he recognised as Robin stood beside her.

“I’ll be sure to pass your complaints to the manager when I tell him to send you the bill for the door.” Robin said, smirking “So, Deadshot, that is what Interpol, the CIA, MI6 and all the rest call you, right? Anyway, Deadshot, tell me, first, where’s Harvey Dent? Second, who hired you?”

“I don’t give up client information. It’s bad for business.” Lawton said, Robin nodding to the girl who stepped down harder causing Lawton to choke slightly before she released her grip slightly “Go f*** yourselves…”

“Well, there’s half an idea…” Robin said with a grin, before pulling a pair of escrima sticks from behind him, pressing controls on his gauntlets, causing the sticks to electrify “10,000 volts. Not enough to kill. Just cause major pain.”

Robin jabbed Lawton with one of the sticks as Batgirl stepped off of him, causing the merc to scream in pain. As she did, Lawton grabbed her ankle, causing the current to travel through him and shock her, Robin disengaging as he did. That was all the distraction Lawton needed, releasing Batgirl and rolling away, grabbing his wrist guns and putting them on, beginning to open fire on the vigilantes.

“Hey, Deadshot, think fast.” Batgirl yelled, throwing several bat shaped blades at him, Lawton quickly shooting each one down and looking up just in time to see Batgirl and Robin running at him, getting punched in the face by both, knocking him down, both of them stepping on his wrists “Now, tell us, who’s your boss’s next target?”

“Some frat boy at GCU.” Lawton spat “Apparently, he’s the last one he needs, now that he has Dent.”

“That’ll have to do.” Robin said, hitting Lawton in the face, knocking him out, before grinning at Batgirl “Well, that tells us who his target is, and we know where this ‘Hush’ will hit next. Good thing I always get invited to those parties. Fancy being my date for the night?”

Thomas Elliot sat in his study, sipping a scotch whilst reading Silence of the Lambs. It had been his late father’s favourite book, and one of the many things Elliot had inherited following his parents’ death in a car crash when he was eight years old, before being passed about various aunts and uncles.

There was a draft from the doors to the balcony, causing Elliot to look up, finding himself facing Batman. The man was wearing a different suit to what Elliot had seen in the last picture of him; the cowl’s ears were slightly longer, the chest armour was now separate plates, all no more than a hair apart, allowing minimal separation. The arms maintained the same, mechanical looking blades on the gauntlets, and the bottom half of the costume looked the same. The belt was slightly thicker, and the emblem was larger, the yellow oval that had been present gone in favour of the large, black bat covering a large portion of the breast area.

“Please, come in.” Elliot said, smiling as he set down his book “Would you like a drink?”

“Harvey Dent was kidnapped. The man was here the day before.” Batman growled “Why?”

“No small talk? That’s a pity.” Elliot said, standing up “You know, I’ve been very interested in meeting you. Then again, you already knew that, didn’t you, Bruce?”

Batman said nothing, simply scowling. Elliot laughed as he paced around the Dark Knight.

“Don’t be surprised. After all, we’ve been friends for years. Of course I worked out it was you under the mask.” Elliot continued “So, tell me. Is Grayson Robin?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Doctor Elliot.” Batman said, maintaining the gravelly voice whilst lowering his tone to a calmer one “Why were you working with Pyg?”

“Who’s Pyg?” Elliot asked, smirking “Look, Bruce… Batman, if you want to keep that charade up, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Now, if you have a serious question to bring to me, feel free to come along with Commissioner Gordon. I’m sure he’d love to hear who’s under the mask.”

“I’ll be back.” Batman said, turning and moving out of the room, before grappling off of the balcony.

“Hasta la vista, Bruce!” Elliot quipped, waiting until Batman was out of sight before moving towards the photo on the wall.

He tilted the photo, opening the panic room. Inside, chained to the table, was a very sweaty Harvey Dent. His face looked to be splitting down the middle, blood seeping from the edges. He was writhing in pain as he looked up at Elliot.

“Please, Tommy, it hurts.” Harvey said breathlessly “I need the Chlorazine.”

“No you don’t, Harvey.” Elliot said, smiling down at Harvey “In a few hours, your body will have finished rejecting the graft, and I’ll be able to just take it off. By then, the bleeding should have stopped.”

“Why are you doing this?” Harvey asked him “What the hell are you planning?!”

“Ooh, temper, temper, Harvey.” Elliot said, smiling as he walked around the table “I was upset at your accident, at first. Then I realised it was a blessing in disguise. You see, I needed a living body to store large portions of the new face on. You’ve served your purpose.”

“New face?” Harvey asked “What the hell are you talking about?”

“It’s simple.” Elliot said “I lost everything when those aliens attacked. All my money was in accounts in banks that foreclosed. So I’m going to take on a new identity, with money to spare. I’m going to become Bruce Wayne.”

Dick walked into the party wearing a black suit with a white shirt and red tie, his hair slicked back. He had Barbara on his arm, wearing a long, strapless green dress, her hair curled neatly over her shoulder. Dick had had one of the people who styled Vicki Vale’s hair before her show come in to do Barbara’s hair; he hadn’t told her, but she was there as the distraction.

On their backs, they both had backpacks. The party had a ball theme, with a slumber party element. Dick had always thought of that more as a sorority thing than a frat, but he just needed to keep an eye on one of the frat boys, a Lonnie Machin. Barbara had identified him as someone who used the handle ‘Anarky’ online, a subpar hacker who fancied himself A-list, when he was C-list, at best.

Of course, the redheaded young man was one of two heads of the frat, which Dick couldn’t remember the name of. The other one, an African American young man named Victor Stone, was something of a rival of Dick’s in class. The two competed heavily, and while Dick outclassed him most of the time, Victor tended to outdo Dick in terms of brute strength in matches in the university boxing society.

Of course, Victor was far from stupid. He’d grown up in cybernetics labs ran by his father, Professor Silas Stone, working at a subsidiary of Wayne Enterprises. It was only because Victor was there on a Wayne Enterprises scholarship, that Dick, Bruce’s ward, as some people had dubbed him, got invited to all these parties. That, and his hundred million dollar trust fund.

“Dick Grayson,” came a voice from behind Dick, Dick and Barbara turning to see Victor stood there, wearing an outfit identical to Dick’s “damn, was hoping now one else would be wearing this.”

“Nice to see you, Vic.” Dick said, shaking Victor’s hand “This is Barbara Gordon, my plus one for the evening.”

“The Commissioner’s daughter?” Victor asked, cocking an eyebrow with a smirk “You do like to live dangerously, don’t you, Grayson?”

“You have no idea.” Dick said with a wry grin, before gesturing to the bags on his and Barbara’s backs “Anywhere we can store these?”

“The bags are all being stored in the cloak room, up the stairs and to the left.” Victor said, flashing a dazzling smile “How about you go put them away and I’ll talk to your gorgeous plus one, there’s a good boy.”

“Just remember who the multi-millionaire is, Vic.” Dick said, taking Barbara’s bag before moving past Victor, the two men’s shoulders slamming against each other as he moved past “There’s the captain of the football team…”

“See you soon, Dick.” Barbara said, mouthing ‘Help me.’

“Yeah, see you soon, Dick.” Victor said, winking at Dick before Dick walked away.

Dick left the pair, heading up the stairs and putting the bags in the large store room marked ‘coats.’ He looked around, before pressing two fingers to his ears, engaging the earpiece.

“Bruce, it’s me.” He said “We’re in the house.”

Good, be careful in there.” Bruce’s reply came “Elliot knows Bruce Wayne is Batman, and he’s drawn the connection between Dick Grayson and Robin. I didn’t confirm it, but-“

“He might smell a rat if he shows up.” Dick said “Thanks for the heads up.”

What are you going to do?” Bruce questioned.

“Improvise.” Dick said, smirking to himself “I’ll check in later. Dick out.”

He cut the line. As he did, he clocked a bright blue light coming from the edges of one of the doors. He moved towards it, looking around to check he was alone before opening the door.

The room was mostly dark. At the edge of the room were some metal plates, and a number of high tech looking silver devices with glowing blue trim. He moved over to one of the devices, what looked like a large, silver gauntlet, glowing blue lines along it.

“Like it?” Came a voice from the door, Dick turning around to see Victor stood in the doorway “My dad invented it. Mark six sonic disruption gauntlet. The chest piece is a mark two energy conversion armour, and those boots, the accelerator seven thousand combat units.”

“What the hell?” Dick asked, picking up what looked like a silver phantom of the opera mask with a red eye “What do you call this one?”

“Target master X.” Victor said “It’s based on one used by some ex-military guy.”

“Floyd Lawton.” Dick said absent mindedly, Victor cocking an eyebrow “I’m the adopted son of a billionaire, I keep tabs on people who could try to abduct me.”

“Bullshit.” Victor said, holding up Dick’s bag and opening it, before pulling out the Robin mask inside “You’ve got yourself a double life. That’s why I’m going to be up front with you. When I was seventeen, I was in a car accident. Was meant to be left paralysed, but my father, well, he’s a cyberneticist. He replaced my left arm at the shoulder, my right arm at the elbow, fitted a fuel cell inside my chest to run it, along with replacing both of my legs and my left eye. Hell, you’d be hard pressed to find any part of me that isn’t some kind of Cyborg.”

“What do you want?” Dick asked as Victor tossed him the bag.

“I want to know what you’re working on.” Victor said “I want to help you out, Dick. It’s all cool being the sports star, but I want to be more. I figure you can relate to that?”

Dick sighed. He moved to the bed, sitting down on it. He looked up at Victor.

“There’s someone coming to abduct Lonnie, guy calls himself Hush.” Dick said “He’s responsible for abducting Harvey Dent.”

“Damn.” Victor said “You know where Dent is?”

“Batman’s working on it.” Dick said, before hearing a crash downstairs “And it sounds like we have company. Time to gear up, Cyborg.”

Barbara stood in the centre of the room the party had been held in. All the guests, sans Dick and Victor could be seen there. Around the room were men in motorcycle leathers, bloody bandages wrapped around their heads. In the middle was another man, wearing a long, black leather trench coat, a black leather body suit with red piping and bandages round his head.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please, hush.” The man said, his voice mechanically modulated into a sinister tone “I only want Lonnie Machin, then, the rest of you can go free.”

“How do we know that.” Barbara said, stepping forward “How do we know you won’t just kill us after we give him to you?”

“You don’t, my dear.” The man said, walking towards Barbara and grabbing her face “I know you. You’re the Commissioner’s daughter.”

“And I know you.” Came a voice from behind the man, who turned in time to see Dick in his costume about to strike with his escrima sticks “You’re Tommy Elliot. Or do you prefer Hush?”

“Clever boy. Bruce has trained you well.” Elliot said “Shame he didn’t teach you to count.”

“Actually, he did.” Dick said “I brought a friend.”

As Dick finished talking, a blast hit one of the men by the door, then the man on the other side of the door. In through the door, in a white bodysuit with a silver chest piece with a blue circle at the centre of it, a full silver left arm with glowing blue energy going down it, a silver and blue gauntlet on his right arm, with the hand converter into a blaster, and silver boots, was Victor. He had a silver face piece over his left eye, covering the left side of his face down to the point his nose ended, the eye glowing red. Victor fired a few more blasts, taking the remaining men down, before aiming at Elliot.

“Give it up, Elliot.” Victor said “We’ve got you covered.”

“Quite the Titans, aren’t you?” Elliot said, laughing “It’s too late. Take a look around.”

Victor scanned the room before looking at Dick.

“Lonnie’s gone.” Victor said, his blaster beginning to charge “Where’d they take him, Hush?”

“Why, the same place they took Mr. Dent.” Elliot said, Dick putting the escrima stick to his throat “Actually, speaking of Mr. Dent, well, you may be interested in what’s become of him. Amazing what physical trauma can cause. Especially when I told him a little secret about his buddy Bruce.”

“Damn it!” Dick said, standing up and putting two fingers to his ear “Robin to Batman. We got Elliot, but one of his men got their target, apparently they’re taking him back to where they had Dent.”

Get me a location, I’m in the city with the Batmobile now.” Came Bruce’s reply.

“Get back to the cave, now!” Dick said “Dent knows about you, about us. There’s only one place he could be going.”

Alfred stepped out of the book case an entrance to the cave was hidden behind. He’d heard an alert that the front door bell was being rang. He’d tried viewing the CCTV feed, but it was out, probably due to the storm outside. He moved to the intercom, pressing the button.

“Can I help you?” Alfred asked, waiting for a response.

Alfred? It’s Harvey, Harvey Dent.” Came the voice of the DA through the intercom “Please, let me in. The men who took me, I managed to get away, but they’ll find me. Please!”

“My word, come in, Mr. Dent.” Alfred said, pressing the control to open the gate as the intercom cut out.

He moved to the kitchen, grabbing a first aid kit from under the sink, before moving to the front door. As he did, there were two knocks. Alfred quickly opened the door, a hooded figure stepping through, blood dripping down from under the left side of the hood.

“Thanks, Alfred.” Harvey said, keeping his head down and nodding to the first aid kit “You might need a bit more than that.”

“What do you mean, sir? You’re bleeding, but I doubt that’s too much.” Alfred said, gasping with horror as Harvey looked up “My god!”

The left side of Harvey’s face was almost completely absent, a bloody scar pattern present where the skin had been. At first glance, his left eyelid appeared to be missing, but upon closer inspection, it could be seen to be there, merely cut messily, leaving his left eye looking considerably wider than the right. The lips were almost totally missing from that side of his face, and a white streak had been died into his fringe on that side, being stained red by the blood.

“I’ve pretty much given up on him.” Harvey said, reaching into his pockets and withdrawing a pistol “Come on Alfred. We’re going for a ride.”

Bruce came running up into the manor, still wearing the Batsuit, yelling Alfred’s name. He searched the study, living room and kitchen frantically. Finally, he reached the front door, where there was a note, small specs of blood on it.

Bruce,

First, release Tommy. This is between you and me. You can always deal with his little games later.

Second, come to the second apartment on the second floor of apartment building two B on second avenue.

Come alone or Alfred dies.

Your friend,

Harvey Dent.

Bruce crumpled the note in his hand. As he did, Barbara entered in her costume, Bruce pushing past her as she did.

“Bruce?” She asked “Did you get here? Is Alfred okay?”

“We’ve got a meeting, and I have a couple of calls to make.” Bruce said, pressing two fingers to his ear “Dick, bring Elliot to the roof. I want answers.”

Dick threw Elliot through the access door on the roof of the building. He’d left Victor downstairs to deal with Elliot’s goons and the clean up. Apparently, the goons were the results of Pyg’s experiments, something the retrieved notes had called ‘dollotrons’. They were strong, they were resilient to pain, but they weren’t bright.

“Wow. I’d heard you were the good cop, as it were.” Elliot said, before Dick hit him in the face “I bet Bruce is so proud of you.”

“He’s your friend!” Dick spat “Why did you try to kill him?!”

“His father took everything from me.” Elliot said “Ever heard the expression ‘sins of the father’? What am I saying, of course you have. That suit you’re wearing says it all. You’re atoning for your father’s sins.”

“My father was a good man!” Dick yelled, punching Elliot again “Don’t you ever mention him to me, or I’ll-”

“Whoever said I meant John Grayson?” Elliot said, laughing “I’m talking about Bruce! He’s given you something to aspire to, but you’ll never be more than his side kick!”

“Shut up!” Dick yelled, swinging again, having his fist caught inches away from Elliot’s face by a black gloved hand, looking up to see Bruce “About time you got here.”

“Leave, Robin.” Bruce said “That’s an order.”

“See what I mean?” Elliot said “You’re not his partner. You’re the pre-match show, before he comes in to play the match.”

Dick clenched his fists, before Barbara put a hand on his shoulder, turning him around. He scowled at Bruce and Elliot before storming off.

“Go after him.” Bruce said to Barbara, getting a nod in response, before turning back to Elliot “What did you do to Harvey?”

“I showed him the truth. About you, about me, about him.” Elliot said “In school, we were called ‘the Trinity’, because we were the best at everything. I had the best medical mind, he had the best legal mind, and you, you were the single most analytical man I’d ever met. That was what gave you away, you know? I had hunches when I first heard of you, and I watched you, for months. Your work in Metropolis with Superman, by the way, was superb. I thoroughly enjoyed that. It was the final nail in your coffin though. You took a hit, and the next day, Bruce Wayne had an injury to match. I thought he deserved to know, and he agreed you deserve to be punished for your deception.”

“Why, though?” Bruce asked “I heard what you said to Dick. My father wasn’t able to save yours after the crash, but he saved your mother.”

“Exactly!” Elliot yelled “I cut the break line. I tried to kill them. I wanted everything. But your father put a stop to that.”

“You killed your father…” Bruce said, before his expression became stoic under the cowl “Tommy, I’m sorry. But you’re coming with me.”

“You can’t do that, Bruce.” Elliot said “It’d make things awkward. I didn’t need the boy, he’s been left a few miles out of town at a truck stop. My work was complete, but I couldn’t have you or Harvey knowing that before the grand finale.”

“What do you mean?” Bruce said, watching as Elliot removed his bandages, revealing a stitched together replica of Bruce Wayne’s face “What did you do?”

“If you take me in, it’ll look like the arrest of Bruce Wayne. Your family’s legacy will be destroyed.” Elliot said, pointing at the emblem on Bruce’s chest “That tells me you won’t allow me to cause that destruction.”

“But if I let you go, my identity, and Dick’s, is compromised.” Bruce said, pressing two fingers to his left ear “Now.”

A red and blue blur streaked across the sky to Bruce’s location, descending rapidly to his and Elliot’s level, before impacting the roof hard, causing hairline cracks to appear in it. As the dust cleared, Kent stepped forward, the red cape of his Superman costume billowing in the breeze.

“Thanks for coming.” Bruce said as Kent restrained Elliot, tapping the man on the side of the head with a single finger, knocking him out “I appreciate it.”

“I owed you one.” Kent said, smirking “Where am I taking him?”

“Watchtower.” Bruce replied “He knows who Robin and I are. He can’t be taken to the police. Not immediately.”

“I don’t like where this is going…” Kent said, his expression stern “Bruce, what are you planning.”

“I spoke to J’onn. He’s agreed to put a mental block on Elliot, remove his knowledge of my identity, and Robin’s.” Bruce said “Then, he’ll need reconstructive surgery, return his face to being his face.”

“Yeah, I wasn’t going to mention that bit.” Kent said “See you around, Bruce.”

“Yeah.” Bruce said simply “Thank you, Clark.”

Kent nodded before taking off and flying into the distance. As he did, Bruce pressed a control on his wrist, calling the Batmobile to his location. He had to confront Harvey.

“Dick, wait!” Barbara called after Dick, having followed him across the last few roof tops, calling after him the whole way, finally getting him to stop here “What he said… It’s not true.”

“No, he’s right.” Dick said “That’s all I am… All we are, to Bruce. We’re not his partners. We’re his side kicks.”

“Why would you think that?” Barbara said, putting a hand on Dick’s arm “Elliot was just trying to get in your head.”

Dick just turned, moving her hand off of him as he moved to face the edge of the building. Barbara walked over to him, grabbing him and spinning him around, before kissing him passionately.

“I’m getting mixed signals.” Dick said as the kiss was broken, getting punched in the arm “Now I’m sensing more of them.”

“The girl never kisses the side kick.” She said, smirking at him “So, chin up, okay, bird boy?”

“Yes ma’am.” Dick said, smirking back, waiting for her to turn before murmuring “Still got some things to think about…”

Bruce stepped inside the apartment building. He knew, with what Elliot had told him, that Harvey would probably have some kind of trap waiting. However, he had to go in. Alfred needed him, and after all the times Alfred had been there for him over the years, he owed the old man.

He reached the door to the apartment specified in the note, reaching into his belt and pulling a small, circular device with a tiny rectangle cut out of the top from one of the compartments, pressing it to the lock on the door, the sides of the device extending outwards as it was attached, giving it the appearance of a bat, a small, red circle flashing in the centre.

He covered his face with his cape, pressing a control on his belt, causing the device to detonate, destroying the lock. He darted inside, spotting Alfred tied to a chair in the corner, with Bruce finding himself facing down the barrel of a gun being held by Harvey in his right hand, a coin in his left, showing a scratched heads.

“Tails,” Harvey said “you lose, Bruce.”

Harvey pulled the trigger, firing the gun at Bruce before things went dark.

Bruce was in a brightly lit space, so bright he couldn’t make anything out, with his cowl removed and in his hands. In front of him was a large, black mass. He began to move away from it, before finding himself facing a bat-signal.

“You’re not going to let it end this way, are you, Bruce?” Came a voice from behind Bruce, who turned to see the figure of Clark Kent, wearing a white suit without the glasses “What happened to the man, the mortal man, who defeated a god?”

“I had help.” Bruce said, removing his cowl “I wasn’t alone.”

“You’ve never been alone.” Said another figure emerging from the brightness, revealing the visage of Alfred “You have always had us all.”

“You need to survive, Bruce.” Said Barbara as she appeared “Unless you’re afraid.”

“Remember what you told Scarecrow, all those years ago.” Dick said as he came into view “You do remember, don’t you?”

“I am vengeance.” Bruce said, the entire environment becoming black as he pulled the cowl on “I am the night.”

Bruce’s eyes snapped open, Harvey barely having time to turn around as he rose up, punching Harvey in the bloody side of his face.

“I’m Batman.” Bruce growled “Let me get you help, Harvey. Please, I’m you’re friend.”

“My friend?!” Harvey spat “You lied to me! You faced me and pretended we’d never met, and then you made me into this, this Two-Faced man!”

“Harvey, I’m sorry.” Bruce said, before charging Harvey, tackling him to the ground, punching him hard enough to knock him out before turning to Alfred “Are you okay?”

“No Alfred, I’m not.” Bruce said coldly as he untied the man before slumping down to the floor, removing the cowl and looking at it “Is it really worth it, Alfred? If it causes all this misery?”

“Maybe not, Master Bruce.” Alfred said, sitting down beside Bruce and placing a hand on his shoulder “However, I know one thing. Your father would be proud of you, of the man you’ve become.”

“You mean the man who spends his nights running around in a mask, yeah, that makes sense.” Bruce said, continuing to look in the eyes of the cowl “No offence, Alfred, but your pep talks are only a bit better than mine.”

“That’s not what I meant, sir.” Alfred said, taking the cowl from Bruce “This is what he would be proud of. You go out every night, you put your life on the line for others, and you do it knowing you’ll never be rewarded for it. Your father was a good man, just as you are a good man. Yes, you’ve fallen. But if something falls, it can rise again.”

Bruce didn’t say anything as he looked at the old man, before finally smiling.

“Always picking me up, huh, old man?” Bruce said “What would I do without you?”

“For your sake, Master Bruce,” Alfred said with a wry grin “I hope you never have to find out.”

Bruce pulled back into the cave in the Batmobile with Alfred, the two men exiting the car. Dick and Barbara were already there waiting. Bruce nodded to Barbara’s collar as he walked towards them.

“Shirt’s inside out.” He said simply “We’ll pretend that’s due to getting out of uniform.”

“Shut up.” Barbara said, blushing slightly “Did you get Harvey?”

“Your father’s just taken him to Arkham.” Bruce said “He mentioned having not seen much of you recently, you might want to go visit.”

“I’ll give you a lift, Miss Gordon.” Alfred said, gesturing to the exit “Lead on.”

Barbara and Alfred exited, Barbara taking a moment to look back before leaving the cave. Bruce and Dick stood there, looking at each other in silence. Finally, Bruce spoke.

“Dick, what Tommy said…” He began “I don’t just see you as a side kick. You’re my partner, and that’s how it is.”

“I know that. Barbara knows that. You know that. Alfred knows that.” Dick said, pausing before sighing as he added “Which is what makes the next part so difficult.”

Dick moved to the glass case by the armoury, containing his new suit, similar in design to Bruce’s. It was black, with a red bird emblem across the chest, the wings joining onto an identical emblem on the back, with the wings extending down the arms down to the two middle fingers. There were mechanical blades akin to the ones on Bruce’s suit on the wrists, and a black utility belt on the waist.

“I’ve loved this, being Robin.” He said, looking at the suit “But I’ve filled out the forms, with Babs’ help. I enrol at Bludhaven University on Monday. It’s time I prove I can do this my way, on my own.”

“If that’s what you want.” Bruce said, half cracking a smile as he said “It’s been good working with you, Robin.”

“I’ve been thinking about that too. People associate Robin with Batman, I’ll struggle to stand on my own with it.” Dick said, looking at the case as he said with a smirk “Call me Nightwing.”

Bruce walked into his office in the Wayne Enterprises building. He’d had a number of appointments booked, as detailed by various post-it notes that Barbara had left dotted around his desk. She’d certainly taken to the job he’d given her as part of her cover for why she spent so much time around Wayne Manor, as his PA. He knew some rumour mills implied their relationship was less than professional, but given her relationship with Dick, most people laughed that off.

Indeed, he’d sent Barbara to Bludhaven to help Dick out with something he was looking into. Some kind of military unit, targeting vigilantes in the city. They’d been hoping for Batman but got Nightwing and the ‘Wonder Girl’ that kept getting mentioned in the Inquisitor. Still, Dick’s work as Nightwing in the last six months was apparently enough to make him their secondary target. Either that, or they’d put two and two together and figured him as Bruce’s former partner.

Either way, he had Barbara out there now for back up, along with Victor Stone, his flat mate who moonlighted as the vigilante called Cyborg. Dick would be fine, and Bruce actually had some time away from being Batman. He’d been down in the cave every night, but not been out on patrol for over a week. He’d be lying if he said it wasn’t boring.

However, this morning, his first appointment was one he’d made, with someone he personally had put in his current position. There was a knock on the door and Bruce buzzed them in.

The young man who walked in was around Dick’s age, about the same height, with a slightly more muscular build and short, black hair. He wore an ill fitting black suit with a blue shirt and red tie; the ensemble looked borrowed, going by their relative good condition in relation to the battered converse he wore.

“You must be Jason.” Bruce said, standing up with a smile and offering the young man his hand, which the man quickly shook “I’m Bruce Wayne. It’s nice to meet you.”

“Actually, sir, we met once before.” Jason replied “I was at the courthouse the day of Jack Napier’s trial for your parents’ murder.”

“Which one?” Bruce said “There were two, and you would’ve only been about four or five for the first one, so I have to imagine it was the second one. I’m sorry, I don’t usually forget a face.”

“It was the first one, sir.” Jason said, his expression cold as he said “I was waiting for my father to come out.”

Bruce grimaced. Jason was the son of Willis Todd, the man who’d been framed for Bruce’s parents’ murder and running the Red Hood gang by Jack Napier, later known as the Joker. A year ago, new evidence had came to light which had exonerated Willis Todd.

Unfortunately, this had been post-humus, as Todd had been killed in prison four years after being sentenced. That had been about ten years ago. Bruce, 18 at the time, had had Jason taken out of the care of the city and into the care of the Thomas and Martha Wayne foundation, a shelter for at risk children. If nothing else, it had made Jason more likely to have a normal life, as opposed to ending up on the streets stealing car tires or something along those lines.

“I’m sorry for what happened.” Bruce said, gesturing to one of the chairs across the desk from him “Please, have a seat, Jason.”

“Thanks.” Jason said, sitting down “So, why’d you ask to see me, Mr. Wayne? Pretty unusual; I don’t think you’ve ever asked to meet with one of the kids from the Foundation.”

“Well, you and I have some de facto history.” Bruce said, pressing a few keys on his computer “I understand you’re due to age out of the Foundation in a couple of weeks.”

“Even with the amount of money you pour into it, they can only keep us until we’re 19.” Jason said “Still two years longer than the City would.”

“Well, that’s why I asked my guardian and Butler, Alfred, to have the foundation set up; to help orphans more unfortunate than I am.” Bruce said, flipping through the pages “I called you here to offer you a job, Jason. It says here you’ve been working with the security at the Foundation for the last six months?”

“Internship. They wanted to give me more marketable job skills.” Jason said, pausing before adding with a smirk “Plus, when you have a parent murdered, whether you’re there or not, it leaves you with anger problems. They figured the fight training was a good way to vent those.”

“Agreed. I used to practice martial arts when I was your age for that exact reason. Might be a bit rusty now though.” Bruce said with an inward smirk “I want you to join the Wayne Manor security staff. Currently, it consists of Alfred and… That’s it. You’d have your own room, a very reasonable salary and all your meals would be provided by the kitchen staff at the manor, unless you request otherwise.”

Jason paused, obviously considering the offer. Finally, he spoke.

“Listen, Mr. Wayne… Bruce…” He said, pausing again, thinking about his words “I appreciate the offer, and that you’re trying to help me. But I don’t need or want charity.”

“This isn’t charity, Jason.” Bruce replied, leaning forward “I’ve seen your resume, you placed second in the judo tournament held at Gotham High last year, and that was only because your opponent used steroids. You’re a smart kid, you know how to handle yourself, and you have a sense of right and wrong. You’ve got the qualifications, and you’ll be paid a lot more, and kept a lot better working for me at Wayne Manor. What do you say?”

“Okay.” Jason said, smirking at Bruce “I’m in.”

Before Bruce could say anymore, his phone rang. He pressed the control to put it on speaker upon seeing the caller was Alfred.

“Alfred, nice of you to call.” Bruce said “I’m sat here with Jason Todd. He’ll be joining us as part of the security staff at the manner starting next week.”

“Very good sir.” Alfred’s reply came “However, I am calling to inform you that you left your pain killers at home.”

Bruce froze. Pain killers was a code word he and Alfred used in the presence of company to say there was some kind of emergency. It was odd though. It almost always involved a call from Jim Gordon, and he almost never called in the middle of the day.

“Thank you for reminding me, Alfred.” Bruce said, smiling “I’ll be home within the hour. If you could access my computer and call the people I have appointments with. I’m sure you love that I sent Barbara to Bludhaven on business for me now.”

“Oh, yes sir.” Alfred replied sardonically “I don’t know how you avoid getting killed without her.”

“Good bye, Alfred.” Bruce said with a laugh, hanging up, turning to Jason “Sorry. I’ve been having migraines recently, probably stress. The doctors prescribed me some pain killers, but I keep leaving them at home. If you like, you’re welcome to come with me. I’ll be in my study for the afternoon, but Alfred will be more than happy to give you a tour? I’ll even let you drive the Porsche.”

“Well, how can I say no to that?” Jason quipped “What 18 year old doesn’t want to drive a sports car?”

Bruce and Jason walked into Wayne Manor. Alfred was waiting for them at the door. He and Bruce took a few steps ahead of Jason quickly, beginning to talk in hushed tones.

“Everything you need is on your desk, sir.” Alfred said “What would you like me to do with Mr. Todd?”

“Exactly what I told him you would. Give him the tour.” Bruce said, turning to Jason “Okay, I’ll leave you in Alfred’s capable hands, Jason. We’ll catch up later if you’re free, or if you have anything else you need to do, Alfred can take you wherever you need to go after the tour, I’ll have the paperwork dropped by in the morning.”

“I’ll hang around.” Jason said, spotting one of the living rooms with a PS4 hooked up to it “You got GTA?”

“Knock yourself out after you’re done.” Bruce said with a smirk, going through the doors to his study and closing them “Computer, lock down study. Authorisation: Bruce Wayne. Password: Martha.”

“Authorisation acknowledged. Welcome home, Mr. Wayne.” Came a female voice as the door locked, shutters closed around the windows, the desk retracting into the floor, replaced by a holographic interface as he sat down in the chair, the bookshelf rotating to reveal a map of Gotham with various readouts on it, a security feed of the cave taking the place of the picture of his parents that hung to the left of the door and the grandfather clock beside the book case moving to one side, revealing a large, metal door which quickly slid open “Currently, no official reports to display.”

“Alfred wouldn’t have called me home for nothing. Call Commissioner Gordon, audio only.” Bruce said, putting on the tone he used as Batman as the call was picked up “You tried to reach me, Jim?”

“You took your time to call back.” Jim replied with a laugh “It’s nothing too important, just something to watch out for. We’ve just got word from one of our undercover guys that Cobblepot’s running guns into the City. Currently planning a sting, so if you could give it a wide berth, I’d appreciate it.”

“I’ll steer clear as much as I can without arousing suspicion.” Bruce replied “Just make sure it’s kept off my radar as far as your people know. If word gets out I know, Cobblepot will get worried about why I haven’t come down on him yet, and then your men inside will be in danger.”

“Copy that.” Jim said “Thank you, Batman.”

“Anytime, Jim.” Bruce replied, hanging up, stopping the forced voice as he said “Disengage lock. Authorisation: Bruce Wayne. Password: Martha.”

“Lockdown disengaging.” Said the computer’s voice as his office returned to its original configuration and the door unlocked “Good bye, Mr. Wayne.”

Bruce ran his hands through his hair. Running guns wasn’t Cobblepot’s game; drugs, yes, Human trafficking, Bruce had caught him on that once but there wasn’t enough evidence to put him away. There was a knock on the door.

“Come on in.” Bruce said, the door opening to reveal a blonde haired woman in a black leather jacket, black top and black leggings, who closed the door behind her “What are you doing here, Dinah?”

“Can’t a girl visit her team mate?” Dinah asked, sitting down across from him “Something on your mind, Bruce? Haven’t seen you this pre-occupied since, ooh, about five minutes before I went for a shower in that hotel room.”

“Is that why you’re here, for an apology?” Bruce asked, cocking an eyebrow “You were the one who suggested a completely physical, no strings attached relationship, I got the call just before you went in the bathroom.”

“Right.” She said “Because, of course, I couldn’t possibly back up, what is it Kyle calls you? The god damned Batman?”

“I told Rayner to cut that out.” Bruce said, half smirking, before his face hardened “Penguin’s running guns into the city, and Commissioner Gordon has asked me to hold off on going after him.”

“And that bothers you.” She said “I heard that you sent Barbara out to Bludhaven, and-”

“Robin needed-” Bruce began, before catching his mistake “Nightwing needed help.”

“And now you do.” Dinah said, smiling “When my father was in the police force, he used to hate having his hands tied by stuff going on. If he was told to stay back, he’d go undercover, off the record.”

“Making a suggestion, Dinah?” Bruce asked, cocking an eyebrow.

“Yeah. I think we should go clubbing. I hear the Iceberg Lounge is lovely.” She said, smirking at him “I’ve got a friend who’ll probably come help out too. He owes me a favour.”

“So long as it’s not Queen.” Bruce said, standing up “His ‘Green Arrow’ is just a poor man’s Batman.”

“Okay, so maybe I don’t have a friend…” She said hesitantly “Oh well. Call it date night.”

“I don’t date co-workers.” Bruce said as they walked out, calling up to Alfred and Jason “I’m going shopping. I fancy a night out. Don’t wait up.”

. Bruce and Dinah walked into the Iceberg Lounge. He wore a black suit, with a blue shirt, the collar open, and a pair of black brogues, whilst she wore a long, low cut black dress and a pair of stilettos with a black clutch, her hair straightened, causing it to fall to just below her waist.

“What’s the plan?” She asked as they walked through the club, Bruce exchanging polite greetings with various business assosciates “Good cop bad cop?”

“How about billionaire, slinky dress.” Bruce said with a smirk “Trust me, you’ll hear far more than I will. Cobblepot isn’t too fond of me.”

“Why not?” She asked, cocking an eyebrow.

“The Cobblepots weren’t always crooked. It was only about thirty years ago that Cobblepot’s father went crooked. After Wayne Enterprises beat out his company for a medical contract that would’ve saved his company. The Iceberg Lounge was opened five years later, under the management of Oswald Cobblepot, using the money he got from his parents’ life insurance. Their deaths were suspicious.” Bruce said, narrowing his eyes “I half wonder if that’s where Lex Luthor got the idea to kill his father.”

“There wasn’t any proof of that, was there?” She asked, looking at him quizzically as they reached the bar, turning to the bar tender “Scotch on the rocks, and a water. He’s got a migraine.”

“Lionel was never one not to vet his staff mercilessly. No one could’ve failed as his pilot or his mechanic, unless Lex paid them off. Funny how not even the pilot survived the crash…” Bruce said, picking up the glass of water and taking a swig as he turned to survey the bar “Cobblepot’s over-”

Before he could finish talking, his eyes widened. Jason was in the club. Had he followed them? Bruce new the kid was good, but he hadn’t expected that. He saw Jason making his way over to them.

“Small talk.” Bruce said simply, before putting on a laugh, as he added “-so I said ‘sorry, buddy. I guess I own the bar now!'”

“You’re a tough man to keep track of, Mr. Wayne.” Jason said as he approached “Took me an hour.”

“Wait, it took you an hour to find us?” Bruce said, dropping the facade in shock “How long were you following us?”

“Three and a half hours.” Jason said, smirking “Guy on the red motorcycle at the junction by the Elliot Memorial Hospital? That was me.”

“Not bad.” Bruce said “However, I’m pretty sure this place has an over 21’s policy.”

“It does.” Jason said “I slipped in through the bathroom window. Not for the first time.”

“Oswald needs to up security.” Bruce said, pausing for a moment before saying “Dinah Lance, Jason Todd. Jason, this is Dinah Lance, my, uh, business associate.”

“Right, business associate.” Jason said with a smirk as he shook her hand “Nice to meet you. I’m Mr. Wayne’s new security guard.”

“A bit young, aren’t you?” She asked, cocking an eyebrow, feigning inebriation “Brucey, is that what your other boy was really? Your security?”

“No, Dick was in a different line of work.” Bruce said “He’s helping run some business for me over in Bludhaven now.”

“Mr. Wayne, can I borrow you for a minute?” Jason said, Bruce nodding and smiling to Dinah with a wink as he walked off, Jason waiting until they were down the other end of the bar before speaking again “Bruce, slip out on your own, that’s fine, whatever, but don’t treat me like an idiot. I don’t like it.”

“I don’t know what you mean.” Bruce said with a smile.

“Bullshit.” Jason said “I heard the two of you speaking about a plan. ‘Good cop bad cop,’ that ring a bell?”

“Oh… That…” Bruce said “Look, Jason, now may not be the best-”

Before he could finish talking, a tall man put his hand on Bruce’s shoulder, putting a tight grip on it. It took a lot of self restraint on Bruce’s part not to flip the guy over his shoulder and punch him in the throat. He turned to see a man he recognised as one of Cobblepot’s regular goons.

“Mr. Wayne, Mr. Cobblepot has requested your presence.” The man said in a thick, Sicilian accent “Now.”

“Do you mind?” Jason said to the guy “I’m Mr. Wayne’s security guard, and I’m giving him a lecture, something I’m sure-”

“Piss off, kid!” The guy said “Now, Mr. Wayne.”

“I really wish you hadn’t said that.” Jason said, before turning and swinging for the guy, his fist connecting with the thug’s jaw, shaking his hand off in the air “Let me guess; metal plate?”

“You little-” The guy said, reaching into his jacket for something, Bruce kicking the guy in the face, making it look like an accident that he’d knocked the man out.

“Come on, let’s go.” Bruce said, annoyed “We need a talk.”

Bruce and Jason returned to Wayne Manor in Bruce’s car. Bruce had told Dinah to bring the bike back; she’d only had the one drink, so she’d be fine so long as she didn’t have any more. They walked into Bruce’s study, with Bruce closing the door behind them and gesturing to the seat across his desk.

“Jason, you’ve been doing this for a day.” He said, his tone cold “And you’ve already messed something up.”

“Hey, I thought my job was to be your security.” Jason said “I’m just doing my job, Mr. Wayne. So what were you talking about with the good cop bad cop thing?”

“Business.” Bruce said simply “Jason, I need to know I can trust you. Because if I can’t, I can’t have you around here.”

“Depends.” Jason said “If you’re in some criminal crap, I don’t want to know. I’m no street thief.”

“Nothing like that.” Bruce replied “I want you to know, Jason, this isn’t a decision I’m making lightly. Computer, lock down study. Authorisation: Bruce Wayne. Password: Martha.”

“Locking down study.” Came the computer’s voice as it went through it’s transformation, Jason looking around in shock “Welcome home, Mr. Wayne.”

“What the hell is this?” Jason asked as Bruce stood up and moved to the Grandfather clock as it slid away and the door opened “Some kind of panic room?”

“Not quite.” Bruce said, gesturing to the door “Follow me. Watch your step, it’s dark until the lights come on.”

Bruce led Jason down, the young man looking around in surprise. As they reached the bottom of the stairs, the glass cases at the edge lit up, revealing the various Batsuits, Robin costumes and the empty mannequin that usually held the Batgirl uniform. At the same time, the Batmobile was slowly raised up on it’s turntable, a series of lights coming on at a raised section, revealing a bat shaped plane by a circular opening in the ceiling as the computer booted itself up.

“You’re joking…” Jason said, turning to Bruce “This is a prank, right? You maintain this stuff for him right?”

“No.” Bruce said “When I was eight years old, Jack Napier murdered my parents in front of me. When I was 14, your father was wrongfully imprisoned for their murder. I’d made a promise to my parents the day of their funeral, that I wouldn’t let anyone else become a victim. I failed the day your father was sent to prison. I failed him, and I failed you.”

“So, what?” Jason said “You want forgiveness? Redemption? Paying some kind of penance?”

“No.” Bruce said “Jack Napier became the Joker. He ruined your life just as much as mine. I want to give you a chance Jason. You’ve got anger problems, I want to help you channel those, into something constructive.”

“What are you suggesting?” Jason asked, cocking an eyebrow.

“Work with me.” Bruce said, moving to the cases and looking at the current Batsuit before turning back to Jason “Help me clean up this city. The people in it were good, once. Some still are. They just need people to be willing to stand up for them against the criminals and the corrupt.”

“Okay, but I’m going to need a suit.” Jason said, joining Bruce and looking at Dick’s last Robin suit “And if I get a choice? I want this one.”

“Okay. On one condition.” Bruce said “If you can hit me, you’re ready to come out with me.”

“Let’s do this then.” Jason said, smirking.

Jason charged Bruce, Bruce side stepping the attack, hitting Jason in the back of the neck, taking the young man to the floor. Jason swung his legs out, Bruce jumping in the air to avoid the attack. Jason came up with an uppercut, the blow grazing against Bruce’s cheek.

“There, I did it.” Jason said with a laugh “I hit you. I’m in. Let’s go.”

“Rule one.” Bruce said, hitting Jason in the gut, causing the younger man to hunch over “Make sure your opponent’s down, or they will put you down.”

“What’re the other rules?” Jason choked out.

“Don’t get cocky.” Bruce said, narrowing his eyes “It’ll get you killed. Now suit up.”

“Where are we off to?” Jason said as Bruce pressed a control on the side of the case, causing the one with his current Batsuit to open, as the final Robin costume case opened too “Going after Penguin? He’s the one that owns the Iceberg Lounge, you must think he’s involved in something?”

“We’re going to GCPD.” Bruce said, removing his shirt as he walked towards the changing area “I need to talk to Commissioner Gordon.”

Bruce pulled the Batmobile up outside the GCPD building, pulling the grapnel from his belt and showing it to Jason.

“Trigger, fires the line. Tensile strength of the cable is enough to pull half a ton under optimum conditions. Of course, you can’t pull half a ton, but that’s fine.” Bruce said, pointing at the trigger before pointing at the button on the left side of the gun and then the one on the right side “Button functions can be customised, depending on whether you’re right or left handed. If right handed, keep the settings as they are, it’ll keep the left button as the retract control, pulling you up at about 30 miles per hour, approximately. Double tap for turbo, which will also cause the retraction of the grapple device when you hit 80 miles per hour, allowing for high speed gliding. The right button will disengage the grapple device at the end, retracting it into the gun. If it’s used in the left hand, it’ll flip those two buttons, for ease of use. This is the mark two. The mark one required you to hold on tight and manually adjust the settings, which is still possible. However, the mark two is slaved to whichever suit is using it. Anyone can use the device, but if the person whose gun it is uses it? The gun will magnetically lock to the gauntlet, rendering it impossible to let go until the device is fully retracted. There’s a manual override in your belt. Otherwise, not even Superman is strong enough to let it go. Any questions?”

“Yeah.” Jason said “Do I get a car?”

“You get the Redbird. It’s a custom motorcycle, designed by my technical team. My previous partner has his own in Bludhaven, though he’s made some non-standard modifications.” Bruce said “Yours will be delivered by the end of the week but you’re going to have to ride shotgun in the Batmobile until then.”

He pressed a control on the dashboard of the Batmobile, causing the canopy to slide open, he and Jason standing up and aiming their grapnel’s at the roof of the GCPD building.

“Let’s do this.” Jason said, smirking as he fired the line, shooting up, Bruce shaking his head as he followed suit, reaching the Roof just after Jason, who was stuck hanging onto the ledge as Bruce disengaged the grapple device just before reaching the top, causing him to overshoot and land on the roof “A little help?”

“Rule three.” Bruce said, helping Jason up “Know your gear’s capabilities. If you’d have waited, I’d have told you to disengage the device five metres away from the top. You’ll overshoot just enough to reach the roof.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Jason said, nodding over to the Bat-signal “Is that it? Ooh, can I get a photo?”

“No.” Bruce said, pressing a control on his belt, causing a holographic keyboard to appear on his right wrist before he started typing on it “I’ve asked Commissioner Gordon to meet us. He’ll be up soon.”

“Commissioner’s busy, Bats.” Came a voice from the door, Bruce turning and rolling his eyes as he saw Bullock “Brought back your buddy then. I’d heard he was over in Bludhaven.”

“Where’s the Commissioner?” Bruce asked, ignoring Bullock’s statement about Jason’s presence in the Robin suit.

“Had a meeting with an old friend.” Bullock replied, smirking “He’s over at Arkham.”

Bruce grimaced. Jim only had one friend in Arkham. One of the friends Bruce himself had in there.

Jim walked into the darkened interrogation room. It had been fitted at Arkham shortly after he’d taken over as the Commissioner, to aid with the apparent overflow of prisoners from Blackgate that ended up in the Asylum. The man sat across from him held his hands in front of him, a coin being rolled between his fingers.

“Thank you for coming, Jim.” The man said, keeping his face in the shadows “I know it wasn’t something you wanted to do.”

“What gave that away?” Jim asked, cocking an eyebrow “The fact that I’ve refused every invitation you’ve sent me in the last six months?”

“Something like that.” The man said, leaning forward, revealing the scarred visage of Harvey Dent, the former district attorney as he looked at the coin in his hand, one side having a pristine head, the other having a heavily scratched one “I must’ve flipped this a dozen times to decide whether to try again. Whether to tell you what I asked you here for.”

“What’s that, Harvey?” Jim asked, cocking an eyebrow “What do you want to talk to me about.”

“Let’s flip for it.” Harvey said, a smile forming on the unscarred half of his face “Heads, I tell you what I’ve heard in here about gang activity. Something they like to rub in my face, given my background.”

“And tails?” Jim asked, curious “What then?”

“Then I tell you something far more interesting.” Harvey said, the smile shifting to a smirk “Who it is under the cowl. Who Batman really is.”

Jim was shocked, watching as Harvey flipped the coin into the air, it spinning slowly in the air before landing in Harvey’s hand, being put down on the back of his other hand.

Jim sat looking at Harvey, who was smirking. Harvey peeked at the coin the looked up at Jim, before revealing the results to Jim.

“That’s a shame.” Harvey said with a sigh before going back to rolling the coin between his fingers “I’d hoped to see your face when you found out who he was.”

“I’d rather not know.” Jim replied “What do you know about this gang activity?”

“That some new enforcer has come onto the scene.” Harvey said, leaning back “No one wants to claim him though. Apparently, he’s about seven feet tall, with more muscle than anyone the guys in here have ever seen. Funny thing is, he never says a word, not one that makes sense, anyway, just takes bullet after bullet after bullet without so much as flinching and decimates the gangs. Only a handful of people have survived him. Some people think he’s a zombie, but that’d be crazy.”

“Almost as crazy as a former DA with half his face burnt off fighting a guy dressed as a giant bat…” Jim said “Tell me more. You said he doesn’t say anything that makes sense. What does he say?”

“Some nursery rhyme. Sorry, that’s all I know.” Harvey said, Jim standing up and going to walk out “Can I ask a question, Jim? For old time’s sake?”

“One question.” Jim replied, turning back to face Harvey “What is it?”

“You said you’d rather not know who he is.” Harvey said, smirking “Why?”

“If I did,” Jim said with a sigh “I’d have to bring him in.”

Jim exited the interrogation room, before reaching into his pocket on his brown trench coat and withdrawing the Nokia Lumia Barbara had given him for Christmas, something about Microsoft beating Apple every time. He quickly pulled up the call control, before dialling.

“Bullock, contact Batman.” Jim said “Tell him to meet me at Arkham.”

“No need, Jim.” Came the gravelly voice of Batman “Bullock’s with me. He put you on speaker.”

“He did, or you did?” Jim said, not getting a response, pausing before saying “He disappeared, didn’t he, Bullock?”

“Yeah, Commish.” Bullock’s reply came “Sorry.”

“Don’t be.” Jim said, shaking his head “He does that.”

Bruce and Jason pulled up to the Asylum. It felt strange being there with someone besides Dick or Jim; even Barbara was kept away, either to avoid any chance of her father making the connection between Barbara Gordon and Batgirl, or to keep her away from some of the more dangerous of Bruce’s adversaries. She was good, but she was an entirely different partner to what Dick had been; she was more cerebral, less physical. With some of the inmates at Arkham, that wasn’t always good.

“Whatever happens, don’t let any of them get in your head.” Bruce said to Jason as they exited the Batmobile “They might try, but block them out.”

“Okay Mr. W- Batman.” Jason said, catching the mistake he almost made, being shot a look from Bruce “I know, I know, don’t do that either.”

“Exactly.” Bruce said as they walked to the entrance where Jim was waiting “What’s the matter, Jim? What we spoke about earlier?”

“No, but it’s something that might make that more difficult.” Jim said, looking at Jason for a moment “Another one? Don’t you already have a new partner, Batgirl?”

“You know as well as anyone, Jim, you can never have too much back up.” Bruce replied “What’ve you heard?”

“I spoke to Dent.” Jim said “I know, you said not to, but he kept trying. Flipped his coin. Heads he’d tell me about gang activity the inmates had been taunting him with, tails… Well, that doesn’t matter, it was heads.”

“Dent?” Jason said “Harvey Dent?”

“Two Face is more appropriate now.” Jim said “Can’t seem to make a decision without his coin since Elliot cut off that skin graft of his.”

Jason grimaced. He’d known that there’d be some messy stuff involved with coming out with Bruce, but he hadn’t considered there’d be what amounted to extreme sadism. Kind of stupid when he considered some of the people Batman fought; The Riddler, Scarecrow, the Joker…

“What did Dent tell you?” Bruce asked “What’s so important it couldn’t wait, Jim?”

“He said there’s a new enforcer, one that’s apparently unaffiliated with the gangs.” Jim replied “He said the guy’s near invulnerable and tears gang members apart, taking bullets without flinching.”

“Does he fly?” Bruce asked with a grimace “I just want to be sure of something.”

“No, he doesn’t.” Jim said “Why?”

Bruce didn’t respond. He was relieved. He’d worried at first upon hearing the description he was dealing with someone on par with Superman, maybe even Superman himself. Clark had gone rogue a little over a year previously when exposed to a Red Kryptonite variant, so Bruce was glad that wasn’t the case here. He hadn’t worked out how to synthesise a non-lethal variant of the Green variant that was the only way he knew to stop the Kryptonian.

“We’ll look out for this guy.” Jason said, looking at Bruce who was apparently still thinking “Any distinguishing features?”

“He’s seven feet tall with a lot of muscle.” Jim replied “Your best bet is to go to where the gangs are trying and failing to kill one man, maybe talking about a zombie.”

“Okay.” Bruce spoke up before Jason could question the last bit “Come on, Robin.”

Bruce led Jason away from Jim, waiting until they were in the car before pressing a few commands, a holographic map with a number of blips on it coming up on the windscreen. He scowled at the results.

“Dent’s right.” He said “Four reports of this guy in the last two months. I can’t believe I missed the connection…”

“Why did you tell the Commissioner not to go and see Dent?” Jason asked, looking at Bruce “I’m guessing there was a reason?”

“He knows who I am.” Bruce said, before a red blip popped up on the map “Reports coming in. Gang shoot out interrupted. Looks like our zombie.”

Bruce and Jason descended on the alley where the shoot out had been taking place. There were bodies littering the alley, all of them ripped apart as if by some kind of monster. Bruce pressed a control on his belt, engaging the cowl’s forensic mode. As he turned to look around, he was hit, hard, being sent flying into the wall.

Jason ran over to him, looking at the source of the impact on Bruce and gasping. There was a tall, hulking figure of a man, in a torn suit, with grey skin and black hair. There were various cuts all over the man’s face and arms, as if he’d been stretched out, with signs of decomposition in places. His eyes were bright green and glazed over. The man roared at Jason, who pulled one of the Birdarangs in his belt, holding it in front of him like a knife.

“Solomon Grundy…” The man said as he advanced, his voice distorted yet somehow familiar “Born on a Monday. Christened on Tuesday…”

The man charged at Jason, who grabbed Bruce and rolled out of the way of the attack. He turned to the man, who was facing Jason again.

“Married on Wednesday. Ill on Thursday.” The man said “Worse on Friday. Dead on Saturday…”

“Buried on Sunday…” Bruce said, rising up and pulling a Batarang, pressing a control on it, causing a red light to start flashing before he threw it, the device exploding on impact, staggering the man back as smoke formed “That was the end of Solomon Grundy.”

Bruce hit the control on his belt again, Jason matching his movement, the lenses on their respective masks shifting into infrared. There was no sign of the man, only a small amount of blood on the floor. Bruce switched his cowl back to forensics mode, crouching down and checking the blood. He pulled a sampling kit from his belt and took a sample before standing up, pressing two fingers to his left ear.

“Alfred, contact the GCPD.” He said “Have them come to my location. Tell them to bring coroners. A lot of them.”

“Is our break over then, sir?” Alfred’s response was dry as ever “What a pity.”

“I know.” Bruce said “The worst thing is, I think I’ve seen this before.”

Bruce and Jason pulled back into the cave. Bruce moved to the computer, quickly pulling up a file. Jason looked at the screen. An image of a man in his early forties, with brown hair and a streak of white at each temple, a goatee on his face, was present on it. His eyes were the same green as the man they’d just seen.

“Who’s that?” Jason asked “What’s up with his eyes…”

“Ra’s Al Ghul. Literally translated, it means Ghoul’s head, more accurately translated, Demon’s head. That’s how his followers think of him.” Bruce said coldly “He’s the head of a secret League of Assassins. He was one of the men who trained me. He’s also effectively immortal.”

“What do you mean effectively immortal?” Jason asked “That’s not possible, is it?”

“We just fought someone I’m relatively sure is a zombie.” Bruce said “Trust me, Ra’s’ method of immortality works. It can bring the dead back to life too, but the longer they were dead, the angrier they are.”

“How can you know that?” Jason asked “Is there something here I don’t know? Other than, you know, the obvious stuff?”

“I was killed and brought back using a Lazarus Pit, that’s what Ra’s uses. Wonder Woman and the other Amazons use them as well, but they’ve refined it somewhat.” Bruce said, sighing as he added “I once saw it used on Ra’s after he was dead for a week. I was 19 at the time, and had to put him down.”

“You knew.” Jason said “You knew what was up with that Grundy guy and that’s why you were ready to throw a bomb at him. How?”

“The eyes.” Bruce said “Exposure to a Lazarus Pit leaves a person with a unique tint to their eyes. Prolonged or repeated exposure leaves them with it permanently. This is something else though; the Lazarus Pit heals injuries, but he was torn up. He’s been exposed to something else too.”

“What?” Jason asked, as Bruce pulled up the blood analysis “What else is in his system?”

“There are traces of herbicides. He spent time buried and then was exhumed. The chemicals match those used in the cemetery at Blackgate. There’s also another compound. It looks like a derivative of one another man I knew during my training used.” Bruce grimaced “He believed performance enhancing steroids were the way forward, to the extent he wired himself up to chemical enhancers. A substance called Venom. This is much more potent though; it would kill the host in seconds.”

“Unless they were immortal.” Jason offered.

“Or already dead…” Bruce responded, standing up and moving to a metal staircase, going up to the raised platform with the VTOL jet in the shape of a bat “I’m going to see Ra’s. Wait here, Jason. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

Bruce didn’t say anything else before getting in the Batwing, the circular metal doors above the Batwing opening as it began to ascend, raising into the newly formed hole in the roof of the cave. Jason moved to the computer. He began to type, before being met with a red screen with the words ‘Access Denied’.

“I took the liberty of adding your biometrics earlier, sir.” Alfred said from the bottom of the stairs at the entrance to the cave “You need to log in. At the moment, your password is password.”

“Nice sense of humour there, Al.” Jason said, keying in his login “Now, there’s something I want to know.”

He began pressing commands, finally reaching the blood analysis. He pressed the button to search for matches.

“His genetics are corrupted, but I know I can rule out myself as an identity.” Jason said, scowling at the results as he said “The body that’s been used here… It’s my father…”

Bruce slammed the doors open in the League of Assassins throne room. Outside, a number of men and women in black ninja outfits were battered and beaten, all by him. He hadn’t been to Nanda Parbat in nearly a decade, but the ruler of the island, and head of the League, hadn’t seen fit to change very much of the design.

In the centre of the room, on the throne atop a flight of stairs leading to a bubbling green pit, sat a young woman Bruce knew all too well. She had her hair tied back into a ponytail, wearing a long, black flowing robe.

“Talia.” Bruce growled “Where’s Ra’s?”

“He’s indisposed at the moment, beloved.” She said, standing and slowly walking down the steps, avoiding the pit as she reached the floor of the room and slowly moving towards Bruce “You know, it hurts that I barely hear from you when you don’t need something.”

“I don’t have time for games.” Bruce said, meeting her between the entrance to the room and the pit “Where is your father?”

Talia stood there, staring him down for a moment. Finally, she smiled and gestured to the pit behind her.

“He’ll be out in a moment.” She said “You’re welcome to wait. After all, it’s been a long time.”

“Nearly two years.” Bruce said, looking at the pit before pressing a control on his belt, a holographic computer keyboard and screen appearing on his left wrist as he quickly entered commands before pulling a batarang, sparks beginning to emanate from it “Let’s see if this draws Ra’s out…”

Bruce threw the batarang, observing a figure quickly erupting from the pit and leaping from it before the batarang impacted it, causing the pit to burst into flames. The man who had emerged walked towards Bruce wearing a green suit, before grabbing him by the throat, only to have Bruce slap his arm down.

“Detective.” The man growled, narrowing his eyes “Why do you disrupt my bath in this manner?”

“Information, Ra’s.” Bruce said “A man showed up in Gotham. He’d been exposed to a Lazarus pit and a derivative of Venom. What do you know?”

“I haven’t a clue.” Ra’s answered, smirking “I’d suggest you try Bane, but I haven’t seen him since I imprisoned him for letting you escape ten years ago.”

“He was virtually paralysed, there was no letting involved in my escape.” Bruce noted “Where did you send Bane?”

“I haven’t a clue.” Ra’s said “I left it to one of my men to decide. Unfortunately, he’s dead now.”

Bruce grabbed Ra’s by the throat, raising him in the air.

“That’s not the answer I want!” Bruce said, spinning around so Ra’s was between him and Talia “Sorry Talia, but I can’t risk a sneak attack from you. Leave, or I break his neck!”

Talia hesitated for a moment, before nodding and exiting the throne room, closing the doors behind her. Bruce knew she’d be just outside, and that there were no doubt alarms in the pit, which his attack would have set off. He predicted he had five minutes.

“I know you control the only Lazarus pits in the world, Ra’s.” Bruce said, tossing his opponent to the floor “So I’m placing a wager. A duel. I win, and you tell me everything you know about the pits.”

“And if I win?” Ra’s asked, cocking an eyebrow.

Bruce paused for a moment.

“Then you have your apprentice back.” Bruce finally answered “Do you accept my terms?”

“I accept, Detective.” Ra’s said, moving to one of the pillars by the pit, and pulling a pair of ornate swords from it, tossing one to Bruce “Old rules apply. First blood drawn from the torso. Please remove your armour.”

Bruce paused before pressing a control on his belt, the cape retracting into the back of his armour, before the mechanisms along the spine slowly opened with a hiss, the same happening along the shoulders and arms, leaving Bruce stood there shirtless, the cowl and gauntlets still on him. As this occurred, Ra’s removed his own shirt.

“So that you know it is a fair challenge.” Ra’s said simply, spinning with a flourish as he swung the sword at Bruce “Defend yourself!”

Bruce narrowly blocked the slash with his own sword, pushing it up before swinging his arm at Ra’s, the assassin barely avoiding Bruce’s strike before slamming his elbow into Bruce’s face. Bruce wiped blood that streamed down from his nose; it wasn’t his though, and Ra’s wiped the blood from the wound that the cowl had caused to his elbow. He smirked.

“First blood is yours, detective.” Ra’s said, bowing slightly as Bruce tossed his sword away “A pity. Were it from my torso, you would be the victor.”

“There’s still time for that.” Bruce responded, charging and dropping to the floor as Ra’s swung across, Bruce kicking Ra’s in the back, knocking Ra’s to the floor as his own sword raked across his chest “Let me guess; I always was your best pupil?”

“Why would I tell you that which you know so well.” Ra’s said as he rolled over, Bruce offering a hand to help him up “Thank you.”

“The information.” Bruce said, beginning to squeeze Ra’s’ hand tightly “Now!”

“You do not need to inflict harm, Detective. I am a man of my word. I will tell you what I know.” Ra’s replied “Six months ago, I encountered a man who said he was experimenting with a project to restore the dead. Said he could help me with one of my own goals.”

“You have goals besides the death and destruction of millions?” Bruce said as he pulled back on his armour, pressing the control to close it and re-deploy the cape “What is it?”

Ra’s paused. As he did, he picked up his sword, as well as Bruce’s, and returned them to their place on the wall. He moved to his throne, picking up his robes and putting them on. Finally, he spoke.

“The man said he could provide me with certain resources not usually within my considerable reach, and in exchange, he wanted access to lazarus.” Ra’s said “I agreed.”

“Who was it?” Bruce growled “Tell me!”

“Some things I have to keep to myself.” Ra’s said “Rest assured, I made sure nothing could be perverted from the sample I gave him. It was imperfect.”

“I know.” Bruce said “He’s created a monster.”

Bruce pressed a control on his belt, a hologram being projected of his and Jason’s fight with Grundy. Ra’s paused.

“Luthor.” Ra’s finally said “The person I dealt with, was Lex Luthor.”

“Why weren’t you going to tell me that before.” Bruce said, his fists clenching again “What aren’t you telling me?”

“Nothing, Detective.” Ra’s said “Now, I’ve told you what you wished to know. I ask that you leave in peace.”

“If anything’s out of place,” Bruce growled as he turned and walked out “I’ll be back.”

Jason sat at the bat computer. He was thankful it had such intuitive controls, or he’d probably be lost. Fortunately, he could get by. As he worked on analysing Grundy… On analysing Willis, the computer began to beep. Jason pressed a control, trying to stop the beeping, an image coming up on the screen of a young man with black hair down to the nape of his neck, a black, bird shaped mask on his face.

“Hi there…” The man said “Is Batman home..?”

“He’s gone out.” Jason said, cocking an eyebrow “Let me guess; you’re his old partner?”

Old partner?” The man questioned “I didn’t realise he had a new one…”

“Jason Todd.” Jason said with a smirk “You can just call me Robin.”

“And you can call me your worst nightmare if you tick me off.” The man on the screen replied “Dick Grayson.”

“Charmed, I’m sure.” Jason replied “What are you after?”

“I need access to the bat computer.” Dick replied “See if Bruce has any files on a group called Checkmate.”

“Can’t help you.” Jason said “I don’t know how to give you access.”

“I’ll put on someone who does.” Dick replied, before the image panned round to a slightly older woman with red hair “Jason Todd, Barbara Gordon. Barbara Gordon, Jason Todd.”

“So you’re the new kid.” Barbara said “Alfred mentioned Bruce had got someone in.”

Did he?!” Jason heard Dick say, Barbara rolling her eyes in response.

“Men.” She said to herself “Anyway Jason, to give me remote access, just search for a program called ‘Oracle 2.0.’ Once activated, it’ll give me full access.”

Jason quickly pulled up the list of programmes, searching for the one she’d mentioned before activating it, watching as a green face with a brain on it appeared on the screen, before minimising down to the bottom corner.

“Thanks, you’re a star.” Barbara said with a smile “And don’t let Dick get to you. He just likes to think he’s irreplaceable.”

I heard that!” Came Dick’s voice in the background, Barbara laughing as she signed out.

Jason smirked. He had a feeling dealing with Dick Grayson would be interesting.

Lex woke up with a start. The balcony doors were open. He could’ve sworn he’d shut them before he went to bed.

He grumbled as he stood up, moving to the doors and reaching for the handle of the left one, his wrist being caught in a black gloved hand and pulled back at an awkward angle.

He looked up at the source of the hand. Batman. He rolled his eyes. Sometimes he was sure the so called ‘Dark Knight’ had a personal issue with him. It was a shame. He’d much rather just deal with the alien.

“What do you want…” Lex finally said, Batman releasing his grip.

“You made a deal with Ra’s Al Ghul, a sample of lazarus for something he wanted.” Batman growled “I want to know what you gave him and why you wanted lazarus?”

“I gave him access to my satellite network. Apparently, certain places would prefer he not have operational coverage in their territory.” Lex said “As for why I wanted lazarus, why do you think? I’m a businessman, Batman. Of course I’d want a key to eternal life. If I could unlock it’s source, my business would never die. Pun intended.”

“Money.” Batman said with a scowl “It always comes down to money with you. Well, for your records, Luthor, your latest experiment is on the loose in Gotham. When I’ve dealt with it, I’ll be back to collect and dispose of your research.”

Batman moved to the door. He paused, glancing back.

“It’s funny.” Batman said “Metallo, Parasite and now Grundy? Luthorcorp’s experiments almost seem to be trying to create monsters…”

Batman didn’t wait for a response before diving off the balcony. Lex closed the doors, moving to the phone by his bed. He picked it up, quickly dialling a number.

“This is Lex.” He said “I want a selection of the samples separated from the main batch. We need them for stage two of project Doomsday.”

Bruce walked down the steps from the Batwing’s landing platform, pressing the cowl release control as he did. He removed the cowl as he reached the bottom, tossing it down on a waiting cart. Alfred had set it up for him shortly after Dick had left for Bludhaven, citing Bruce’s habit of just leaving parts of his suit lying around after using the Batwing.

“Jason?” He called “Jason, where are you?”

“He’s gone out.” Came the voice of Barbara as she appeared from round by the computer “He was gone by the time I got here.”

“Grundy.” Bruce said, narrowing his eyes “Barbara, I need you out there to find him now.”

“Not even going to ask why I’m back when you sent me to help Dick?” She questioned “Are we doing that detached now?”

“Dick called while I was flying back from Nanda Parbat, told me to expect you back.” Bruce replied simply as he removed his gauntlets “Gear up. I’m going hunting.”

“So why’s the suit coming off?” She asked “Normally, when you go hunting, you’re getting into the suit and into the car.”

“I’m testing the assault tactical suit.” Bruce said “I need the added strength level for Grundy.”

“The assault tactical suit?” She asked “What’s that?”

“You’ll see.” Bruce said, moving through to the armoury “I’ll see you out there.”

As he heard her motorcycle engine rev and launch out of the cave, Bruce pressed his hand to a hand scanner on the wall. As he did, a retina scanner scanned his left eye.

“Voiceprint required.” The computer said “Please give authorisation code.”

“Authorisation: Batman.” Bruce said “Passcode: Thomas.”

“Authorisation accepted.” Came the voice of the computer “Welcome, Mr. Wayne.”

The bulkhead wall in front of him slid into the floor as the lights behind the alcove which was being revealed lit up. Inside was a black armoured suit with a blue tint. The gauntlets were primarily the same as the ones he used with his current suit, albeit with a blue tint. The boots were similar, but Bruce knew about the thrusters in the boots; whilst not enough for sustained flight, they could enhance his jump capacity. The cowl had longer ears than his current suit, with lines on it as if they were two pieces each. Finally, in the centre of the chest was an oval with a bat symbol in the centre of it, the oval currently grey.

Bruce stripped out of the suit he wore. It was time to go to work.

Jason tossed the thug he’d been interrogating to the floor. The man was bloodied, beaten, and his arm was bent at a grotesque angle.

Nothing. The man had given him nothing! All he’d done was comment how Jason was quieter than usual; apparently, he’d mistaken him for his predecessor. Then, the man had been too terrified after Jason had began by snapping his arm in half a dozen places to tell him anything coherent.

He still didn’t know where his father was. Still, he had all night.

He turned around as he heard something behind him, seeing Barbara stood there in her Batgirl suit. He smirked.

“Thought you were in Bludhaven with your boy toy.” He said with a small laugh “You get bored.”

“No. He asked me to come and help you guys.” She replied, her tone stern as she nodded to the man on the floor “He needs an ambulance!”

“I was going to call him one.” Jason said, turning back to the man and crouching beside him and picking him up by the throat “If he tells me what I want to know! Where’s Grundy?”

“I… I…” The thug began before feinting.

“Damn it!” Jason yelled, throwing the man on the floor, hard “Useless!”

“Calm down.” Barbara said, putting a hand on Jason’s shoulder “I saw what you were working on. I know who Grundy is.”

“Did you tell Bruce?” He asked simply as he shrugged the hand off, turned and began to walk out of the alley.

“I should’ve, but I didn’t.” She replied “Look, Jason, I don’t know you. From what I’ve seen, my opinion of you is pretty mixed right now. But it’s not my place to go into your personal stuff. That being said, I’d be willing to bet that Bruce has already seen that file. You should’ve encrypted it.”

“I’ll remember that.” Jason said as he pressed a control on his gauntlet, auto dialling the emergency services “I need an ambulance. Alley behind Schott’s Toys. There’s a crook who’s been beaten pretty bad.”

Jason didn’t wait for Barbara’s condemnation or approval of his actions, instead pulling a grapnel from his belt and firing up, proceeding to leave the alley. She could talk to the medics when they got there.

Bruce sped through the city streets in the Batmobile. Barbara had called in moments after Jason had left her and filled him in on what had happened. Bruce could argue he was disappointed, but more than anything, he was disappointed in himself.

He’d known about Jason’s anger issues, he’d known how volatile Jason had been called at the orphanage, and most of all, he’d known about the involvement of Lazarus. He also knew exactly who Luthor’s new formula had been used on, despite the efforts of both Jason and Barbara to keep it from him.

Fortunately, Barbara had done one other thing. She’d slipped a tracker on Jason. A tracker Bruce was now following. After this, maybe he’d need to consider low jacking all the equipment in the cave, just in case.

He pulled up to the alley outside the warehouse he’d tracked Jason to. After a lot of crisscrossing the city, Jason had began to move straight here. Clearly he’d found something.

Bruce pressed the controls on the console of the car to bring up the details for the building, narrowing his eyes in the cowl.

The building was registered to Ace Chemicals. The company had gone out of business after the press that had come with being involved in the creation of Joker. That made this place a perfect hiding space, if only someone had the brains to use it. Grundy didn’t. But Bruce knew who did, and who’d be both intelligent and insane enough to try to control a beast like Grundy.

Jason crept along the scaffolding in the warehouse. He’d found Grundy a dozen blocks away, and had tracked him here. He looked down at the scene below.

There were a number of items like yoyos, bazookas, guns, boxing gloves on guns and other such novelty items and weapons. In the middle of it all, Grundy was sat, playing with what looked like a Jack in the Box.

Jason scowled. This was what had become of his father. Murdered, brought back to life and now living in an abandoned warehouse, playing with cheap toys, his mind reduced to that of a child.

He skulked back into the shadows as he heard the doors open, a figure in a purple suit and hat walking in. The figure walked up to Grundy, offering him a hand, which the hulking figure took, only to writhe around in pain.

“Got you again!” The man in the suit laughed, tossing the hat aside to reveal green hair and the scarred visage of the Joker “Here, smell this.”

Joker put his flower up to Grundy’s face, the figure leaning forward, only to have a stream of acid squirted in his face, causing him to cover it with his eyes and retreat from the Joker.

“You’ve made a good little gofer, Grundy.” Joker said, picking one of the guns up and checking it was loaded “But you’ve outlived your usefulness. Nighty night.”

Joker cocked the gun. As he did, Jason pulled a batarang from his belt, hurling it down at the Joker, the projectile missing the clown by a couple of metres, but serving to alert him of Jason’s position.

Joker fired a shot up, the bullet penetrating between the armour plates of Jason’s suit at his shoulder, causing the young man to fall to the floor with a heavy thud and a whimper.

Joker ran over, tossing the gun aside and picking something else up off the table, hiding it from behind his back. He approached Jason, laughing maniacally as he did.

“Oh look, I caught me a Robin!” He said with a laugh, before revealing the crowbar he was hiding “Tell me, what do you get when you cross a clown, a Robin and a crowbar?”

Jason said nothing, instead fighting through the pain from the gunshot and spitting in Joker’s face. The Joker grimaced for a moment as he pulled the napkin in his breast pocket out, wiping his face down.

“That was rude. Where’ve your manners gone?” Joker chastised, laughing as he continued “Anyway, as I was saying. You get a death in the family.”

Joker raised the crowbar, beginning to beat Jason. As he brought his arm up again, the glass of the skylight above shattered, a large bluey-black mass descending rapidly and landing on Joker.

“Joker.” Bruce growled, turning to Jason for half a second, letting him see the lit up yellow oval with the bat emblem on his chest, before turning back to Joker, picking the clown up by the collar “You’ll pay for that.”

“Oh will I now?” Joker asked, laughing as he said “Still pissed I killed your parents? Which ones were they, by the way? I’ve been thinking about that for the last few years, trying to remember which ones they could be.”

Bruce roared as he threw Joker across the room, the clown impacting a metal support with a sickening crack before he slumped to the floor. Bruce leapt across the room at Joker as Barbara descended, landing beside Jason.

“Special pick up service.” She said “Fifteen minutes or it’s free.”

“You need to work on your puns…” Jason choked out as Barbara picked him up and fired a grapple line, pulling them both out through the skylight, Jason losing consciousness as they came out.

Meanwhile, Bruce was beating Joker hard. As his next punch made contact with the clown’s face, his nose bent at a sickening angle with a crunch, blood streaming from it. Joker looked back up at him, a sick smile forming on his face.

“Go on.” Joker said, laughing slightly “Do it.”

Bruce pulled his arm back, preparing to punch Joker one final time. As he brought it down, he pulled his punch at the last second. What would have been a killing strike became one strong enough to knock out instead.

Bruce picked up his fallen enemy, carrying him out of the building in his arms. He’d finally done it.

He’d finally won.

Jason came to in a bed in Wayne Manor. There were a number of medical apparatus attached to him. He tried to sit up, wincing as he did. A hand was put on his uninjured shoulder, pushing him down firmly. He turned to see Bruce stood there, a stern look on his face.

“Joker… Grundy…” Jason said, not sure where to ask “What happened.”

“Joker’s locked up in Arkham with round the clock security.” Bruce said “As for your Father, he’s alive. If you want to call it that. His body’s alive. In fact, it seems unable to die.”

“I’m feeling a but coming.” Jason said, grimacing “Were you able to get him back to normal? Is he actually back?”

“No, Jason.” Bruce replied, sighing as he said “His mind is too far gone. Most Meta-Human criminals end up in Iron Heights, the undersea prison. No way out except by submarine. However, we couldn’t risk his immortality being cracked.”

“Where is he.” Jason asked “Where is my Father?”

“Your Father’s dead.” Bruce said “The creature using his body, Grundy, is inthe secure containment on Watchtower. He’s one of only three inmates, along with Parasite , the Reverse Flash. Don’t worry, he’ll be well taken care of. I hate to admit it, but Lantern’s good at that.”

Jason sighed. Finally, he looked back at Bruce.

“What day is it.” Jason finally asked, not cracking a smile.

“Friday.” Bruce replied “You’ve been out for a week.”

“A week?” Jason asked, looking at Bruce in shock.

“Yeah. And I need to go.” Bruce said, standing up.

“Why’s that?” Jason asked “Bruce, what did I miss?”

Bruce paused at the door. Finally, he turned around, moving to the bedside, picking up the TV remote and pressing the control to turn it on. On the screen was the image of a pair of figure in Red and Blue fighting in the streets of Metropolis. One Jason recognised as Superman. The other one wore the same suit in a darker red and blue, the ‘S’ on the chest flipped.

“Superman’s in trouble.” Bruce said “Most of the League are busy on other matters, but Superman has some back up.”

“Well then,” Jason said, struggling to his feet “What are we waiting for?”

“You’re staying here.” Bruce said, pushing Jason back down “Barbara’s down in the cave under orders to make sure of that.”

Bruce turned and walked out, leaving Jason to rest. Clark was in trouble with some Bizarro clone. Supergirl was en route, and Dick was already there with Barry and Impulse.

Bruce just hoped it would be enough to handle the clone of the Man of Steel.

 

TO BE CONTINUED IN MAN OF STEEL : VOL 2………………..

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